Estimates show there could be a shortage of over 250,000 poll workers for the 2020 general election due to COVID-19. Older people are much more susceptible to the coronavrius, so many are taking this election off, leaving a huge need for poll workers across the country.
According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 58% of poll workers in the 2018 general election were over 60.
"We're talking about enormous numbers of poll workers who are not going to feel comfortable, and already have shown it in the primary, being in the polling places in the midst of a pandemic when they have concerns about their health," Bob Brandon, president of the Fair Elections Center, told NPR.
The Fair Elections Center has started an initiative called Power the Polls that aims to recruit 250,000 poll workers for the election.
The initiative is using digital media to find "low-risk and diverse poll workers who can staff in-person voting locations during early voting and on Election Day."
Old Navy just took bold strides to help America's polls stay open. The clothing giant will give its employees a full day's pay to work the polls, regardless of their work schedule on November 3.
"We learned that America is facing a record shortage of poll workers, estimated at 250,000. We saw a unique opportunity to tap into our community-minded workforce to serve this need and make a meaningful impact," Nancy Green, Head of Old Navy, told Newsweek.
In addition to helping out at the polls, Old Navy is making sure all their employees are able to cast their ballots, by offering up to three hours of paid time off on Election Day.
"The reality is that white-collar workers are generally not the ones most affected by these limitations. In terms of having the time to leave to go vote, white-collar workers who work 9-to-5 in the office, with exceptions, are able to find the time to go vote," Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections at Common Cause, told Newsweek.
"It's those hourly wage earners who will lose hourly wage or are working multiple jobs who are unable to do so."
"I'm not sure it will lead to higher voter turnout, but I'm hopeful it will lead to higher poll worker recruitment. That is a really good avenue where it could make a difference," she added.
Old Navy's decision to support American democracy by paying its workers to staff the polls and by giving them three hours of paid time off to vote is commendable in country where Election Day isn't a federal holiday.
More than two-thirds of Americans polled by Pew Research have said they'd support a law making it a holiday. The Democrats passed a bill in the House last year that would make it a national holiday, but it had no chance in the GOP-controlled senate.
Making Election Day a national holiday would give Democrats an advantage in the polls by increasing turnout.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the proposal a "power grab" by Democrats.
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