Club Recruits Poll Workers for 2020 Election


Cyrene Puno

Collage by Cyrene Puno

In response to the United States poll worker shortage for the 2020 election caused by COVID-19, the Campolindo Youth Action Club is organizing a poll worker campaign to recruit high school students for the job.

According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Election Administration and Voting Survey, over half of the poll workers in the 2016 election were over the age of 61, meaning that they are in a higher-risk category for the virus.

High school students 16 and older can become poll workers in Contra Costa County as long as they obtain permission from a parent/guardian and school administrator, according to the Contra Costa County Elections website. Poll workers receive a stipend for their participation; clerks are paid $125 and inspectors are paid $230, and bilingual workers receive an additional $10.

“It’s important for young people to get involved in politics, whether that be through becoming poll workers, registering to vote, or volunteering on campaigns because our voices matter too,” said club president junior Lela Tolajian. “Many young people are concerned about issues like climate change, racial injustice, healthcare and so much more but too often we don’t know how to get involved and politicians ignore us. I wanted to help change that narrative.”

“There is currently a great deal of [conflict] in regards to voting and [the] election, especially with efforts made by President Trump to stop the election, or at least aspects of it, such as voting by mail,” said club vice president junior Sheila Teker. “We thought it was crucial to encourage people to vote and thus be able to present their voices instead of being forced into silence.”

“Without poll workers, a fair and equitable election is not guaranteed,” said sophomore club member Elizabeth Chien.

Chien noted that “young people are not as likely to develop severe symptoms if they get COVID-19,” but it is “still important that everyone takes safety precautions,” such as wearing masks and using hand sanitizer often.

The club plans to recruit students by using social media, designing infographics, and asking teachers to make announcements in their classes. “We are just focusing on spreading the word right now, and we hope to recruit as many people as we can,” said Chien.

Teker said that it is important that students sign up to become poll workers because “not only is there a current shortage, but they can also gain more experience and further understanding of how voting works at our county level.”

Overall, Tolajian said that her goal is to “make an impact on [her] community through activism, as well as empower [her] peers to take a stand about issues that were important to them.”