Every election year, Florida proves to be a critical battleground state that has the potential to dictate who wins the presidency. Recent polling indicates that President Trump and Vice President Biden are tied neck and neck, with both candidates having secured 45 percent of likely voters. In recognition of this, President Trump, Vice President Biden, and their respective campaign teams are working tirelessly to secure the remaining votes still up for grabs.
Yet, for the election to go over smoothly, it is paramount that Florida has the right infrastructure in place so that every vote can be counted, and every Floridian can safely visit an in-person polling location. For this to happen, we must ensure that the ballot boxes are fully staffed with well-trained poll workers so Florida can avoid the same overpopulated in-person polling locations that Wisconsin recently experienced.
Reports indicate that a nationwide shortage of poll workers due to the coronavirus pandemic is possible, as nearly 900,000 poll workers are required to work the ballot boxes. Older Americans have traditionally been on the frontlines of our democracy during election years, working tirelessly at in-person polling locations to provide a structured environment where voters can count on their ballot being tallied. These veteran poll workers have been a reliable resource in previous years, helping to run the complicated process of operating voting locations, as well as managing voters and guiding them in the practice of exercising their Fifth Amendment right. This year, though, is different.
The coronavirus, which disproportionately harms older Americans, has understandably forced many older poll workers to stay home to lessen their risk of catching the virus. Now, it is up to an intergenerational effort of younger Americans and other first-time poll workers to step up and take the reins so that voters can safely cast their ballot this year. Fortunately, America’s youth are ready to answer the call.
In Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa, the Supervisor of Elections has reported that twice as many people as needed have signed up to help run in-person polling facilities. This mass mobilization of mostly first-time poll workers is in large part due to the efforts of Power the Polls, and through the work of groups like the New Leaders Council, the Association of Young Americans, and AARP.
These organizations have undoubtedly helped to create a safer in-person voting environment not only for younger voters but also for Americans 50+, a demographic that has routinely been a driving force during election years and could determine the winner in November. Both candidates, having fully recognized the important role that these voters play, recently conducted in-depth interviews on key issues that they know Americans 50+ care about. The interviews, prompted by AARP, underscore the value that the presidential candidates place on securing the vote of Americans 50+. By meeting the critical mass of poll workers needed to safely run in-person polling locations, Americans of all ages are sure to feel safer as they cast their ballot.
This year it is important that we keep the health of all Americans in mind as we head to the polls. Social distancing and a sufficient number of poll workers are essential in providing an environment where voters can confidently mitigate the risk of catching coronavirus. By prioritizing the importance of new and intergenerational poll workers, Floridians can rest assured that their vote will be counted.