The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

COVID-19 Causes Surge in Youth Poll Workers

2020 Election Voting Booth (Image Courtesy of IBtimes)

High school students helped fill the shortage of poll workers in the D.C. area this election, as much of the usual older demographic didn’t volunteer this Election Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Pew Research Center, 58% of poll workers in the 2018 general election were over the age of 60. Predicting that many people who volunteered in the past would drop out since they are in a high-risk population for the coronavirus, local governments encouraged teenagers and millennials to work the polls.

“A lot of the poll workers, from what I understand, were usually older, and they were really at-risk if they came out to work because of COVID. I wanted to fill that gap,” WIS student Sophie Racine said.

Racine also emphasized the importance of volunteering as someone who is bilingual: many voters who don’t speak English can be discouraged from voting if there are no poll workers who are able to help and communicate with them. 

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Although laws differ between states, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia all allow teens to volunteer in this election cycle.

Elena Cura and Isa Paley,  juniors at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., worked at local polls on election day. 

Paley stressed her interest in politics and eagerness to help in the election. “I was really interested in politics…and when you’re 16, you can’t vote. It’s harder to do stuff that feels like you’re contributing to helping with the election,” Paley said. 

Cura agreed with Paley but added safety as one of the factors that lead her to volunteer. “I saw that a lot of poll watchers were going to try to create voter intimidation, and I wanted to be there to prevent that,” Cura said.

Because of COVID-19, many people chose to vote by mail, so there were fewer people physically going to the polls to vote on Election Day. However, Paley still felt her experience was important.

“I thought it was a really cool experience, and I felt good doing something that helps other people,” Paley said.

All three high school students expressed interest in continuing to volunteer in future elections and emphasized that they wanted to make as much of an impact as possible, regardless of their age.

Racine connected her interest to a memory from when she was younger: “I remember going to vote with my mom when I was little, and I was really interested in the process of democracy. So even if I can’t vote, I still think it’s really cool to help with that.”

By Camila Levey

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