Poll worker shortage ahead of midterm elections

Elections 2022

(NewsNation) — With less than four weeks to go until the midterm elections, the country is facing a dire shortage of poll workers.

Many poll workers are quitting over fears for their safety as stolen election claims from the 2020 election continue to divide the nation.

Power the Polls, an organization that helps staff polling places across the nation, estimates 1 million poll workers are needed to staff every major U.S. election.

Thousands of poll workers are still needed for this year’s election and election officials are having a hard time trying to find people to fill these roles.

There was a record shortage of poll workers in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Power the Polls helped provide more than 700,000 people to help combat the shortage. But officials are finding that since the start of the pandemic, it has been harder to find people to work the polls — and workers feeling unsafe is a key factor.

A survey from the Brennan Center for Justice showed that one in six election workers reported being threatened on the job and 77% of people surveyed said they believe the threats are happening more often in the past few years.

About 20% of those surveyed reported they planned to leave their jobs as poll workers before the 2024 election, and one-third of those people said the top reason for leaving is “political leader attacks on a system they know is fair and honest.”

Federal authorities have taken some action on the issue: The Justice Department last year created a special task force to combat the rising threats against election workers, which the task force’s leader, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, called a “threat to democracy” in a statement announcing the program. 

In August, the task force briefed hundreds of election workers and officials on its work, reporting that it had reviewed more than 1,000 reported threats and found that 11% of them merited federal criminal investigation.

Some state and federal lawmakers have also recently taken steps to address the issue by introducing and passing legislation aimed at protecting workers against threats.

So far this year, there have been poll worker shortages reported in New York, California, Ohio, Alabama and Texas.

NewsNation affiliate The Hill contributed to this report.

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