When Atlanta’s June 9th Primary Day election made national news for hours-long lines, understaffed precincts and broken voting machines, local policy makers knew they had to find a way to change the narrative ahead of the next election. Now the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) believes they have found the missing piece of the Election Day story: young, tech-savvy Georgians.
The Chamber launched its new site this week, to recruit young Georgians to be paid poll workers for upcoming elections across the state.
The Chamber’s initiative was born after they issued a statement vowing to advocate for state-wide election change. While talking with community and civic leaders, the Chamber decided to plug into their existing network of local businesses to build a new cohort of engaged, motivated and young employees to help ensure future elections run smoothly.
“The talent within our region’s major corporations, and our small and medium-sized businesses, creates the perfect opportunity to mine for highly-qualified poll workers who can make a meaningful impact on election day,” said president and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick in a statement.
Those selected as paid poll workers will be trained by the state Board of Elections to troubleshoot issues at individual precincts and help ensure voting lines continue to move throughout the day.
Hiring poll workers for a one-day gig might not seem like a typical economic development program for the Chamber. But Dave Williams, Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Infrastructure & Government Affairs at MAC, spoke to Hypepotamus about why such an initiative is essential for Georgia’s future.
“Knowing that election outcomes play a critical role in the social and economic prosperity of our region, we have a responsibility to empower our community to make educated decisions when it comes to voting,” said Williams.
The average age of a Georgia poll worker is currently over 70, meaning that many of these traditional workers have opted out of working due to coronavirus concerns. The state has 2,700 precincts to staff, and approximately 2,000 poll workers need to be hired in Fulton County alone.
Williams believes that the MAC initiative can help bring qualified young people in to fill this staffing gap. He is hopeful companies will share the opportunity with their employees, but is also encouraging individuals to sign up. Any resident over the age of sixteen is eligible to work at a precinct in their county.
“Efficient, secure elections are crucial for our community,” Williams said.
At its core, MAC is about economic development for the region. Public policy, Williams says, is a key way to attract new business and help make Georgia a place where entrepreneurs can grow new ideas. The Chamber’s current involvement includes everything from lobbying for the new state Hate Crime Bill to launching the RESTORE ATL Fund, which provides immediate assistance to Black-owned businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19.
While the poll worker initiative is new, it is far from the first time the Chamber has worked to be an Election Day resource for the Metro Atlanta area. Their website Vote Metro ATL provides a quick and easy database for voters to look up candidates and read up on upcoming local ballot measures.
Williams is encouraging those interested in working the polls to sign up soon, since those selected to work in November will still have to go through training ahead of September’s early voting period.