Brave men and women have been sent to foreign shores to defend the American way of life. To prevent tyranny from spreading any further. To help free those who are being oppressed, and to become the voice for the voiceless. This message of good shall triumph over evil, and that they can sleep peacefully because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf was always something they wanted to be imparted on our citizens and those they helped.
Now the nation is placing the call to service again.
This time though, there are no ships to board, dunes to climb, or rice patties to wade through. Instead, this time it is a call to pick up the pen and prove it mightier than the sword by helping to ensure the people get a chance to have their voices heard in the voting booth.
For centuries now, any time the American warfighter has stepped on the battlefield, the freedom of speech, the right to vote, and to have that vote come freely has been a part of the reason for them to be in harm’s way.
Now many states are asking these same service members to show those they were defending how seriously Americans take our right to vote and become poll workers. With the average age of the poll worker currently standing at 61, many are afraid to come out and work the polls this year due to the presence of COVID and other illnesses.
Veteran’s Being Asked to Work The Polls
Granted the number of poll workers has dropped by 130,000 over the last three election cycles alone. Additionally, 20% of poll workers have already stated they do not anticipate returning for the 2024 elections. This has been a huge factor in the shortage of poll workers in many states, with California, New York, and Texas reporting extreme shortages across their states.
Ellen Gustafson is the co-founder and co-executive director of Vet the Vote. They along with 30 coalition partners have successfully attracted 1,000 vets, with their big recruiting drive coming up with the NFL season getting ready to begin. Wife of a Navy Veteran and daughter of a Coast Guard Veteran, she knows just how eager many are to serve their country.
“We saw a big connection between the military family community and the veterans’ community and the need to protect different facets of democracy. We volunteer at a higher rate — we obviously know how to deal with complex situations and work together across many different boundaries to sort of accomplish amazing things.”
Partnered with 15 veteran groups, four civic organizations, and the NFL, Vet the Vote should have a rather successful campaign getting new poll workers in place. Currently, many of the poll workers in place are already veterans. Seeing the polls as their new mission in life, these brave men and women are happy to help preserve the rights so many watched their buddies die face down in the muck for.
Joshua Dyck, a professor, and the director of the Center for Public Opinion at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell sees why the polls are having such a difficult time being staffed. “Because that sort of venomous nature of American politics has amped up so much, people are just less and less willing to work the polls. Violence is the extreme outcome, but the less extreme outcome is people just deciding, ‘I don’t really want to work at the polls, this isn’t really worth it.’ And then it becomes more difficult for the basic cogs of our democracy to turn.”
Dyck isn’t wrong either. People aren’t willing to give up a day for the greater good, and these are volunteer positions, so there isn’t much incentive to spend your day there. Given the risk that goes along with voting across the globe, and is now being threatened here at home, it makes sense to have Veterans answer that call.