Younger Poll Workers in Georgia Fill Some of The Void Created By Pandemic

Cobb County has had poll workers unable to serve because of worries over COVID-19.

Emil Moffatt / WABE

In March, when the pandemic arrived in Georgia, poll workers began to drop out for fear of catching COVID-19.  Many people who’ve traditionally helped run elections are older and more prone to serious complications from the coronavirus.

Even though the election has been pushed back twice, some counties are still having problems recruiting.

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“We’re still short of our election day target for how many poll workers we would like to staff,” said Janine Eveler, elections director in Cobb County. She says they have found some new workers, while others have been promoted to supervisors.

“It’s gonna be a little slow getting going until they get used to what they have to do,” she said.

And Cobb is not alone in having to find younger poll workers because of COVID-19. Fulton County has had similar issues, and it’s gotten some relief from the Georgia Poll Worker Project, which recruited dozens of college students or recent grads.

Evan Malbrough is a Georgia State alum who founded the effort. He says the opportunity to see an election’s inner workings also comes at a time of record unemployment.

“A lot of students are looking for work and to money to pay bills and such, and this was a speedy opportunity to get a good amount of money for one day of work,” said Malbrough. “And also, some just joined because they saw it as an opportunity to help out.”

Another group of young people with a similar vision is the Rollins Election Day Initiative at Emory.

Nellie Garlow is pursuing her masters in public health there. Her group is pushing for the university to cancel classes on November 3rd so she and her classmates can volunteer at the polls and hand out masks to those in line.

“I know we’re just students, but now is our moment,” said Garlow. “And I think that we have more than enough tools to help make a meaningful impact this way.”