Younger generation steps in as poll workers for August primary

College aged students spent their Tuesday working at polling locations across the city of Madison.
Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 8:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Aside from plexiglass barriers and voters wearing face masks, one of the biggest changes is the age demographic of poll workers.

“That has been quite something to see take place,” said Maribeth Witzel-Behl, the City of Madison Clerk. “There are a lot of new poll workers that I talked to who told me that they are working at the polls because their parents are not able to or their grandparents are not able to.”

Many long-time poll workers opted not to sign up this election cycle due to the health concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Nathan Haimowitz says this primary is his first time as poll worker. The 20-year-old UW-Madison student has said he is enjoying watching the voting process unfold.

“We’re part of the cog in the machine that’s getting democracy going,” said Haimowitz.

He says he thinks many in his generation believe American politics aren’t for them to be involved with.

“I think it’s very easy to feel disenfranchised and that you are not a part of the powers that be making decision,” said Haimowitz. “This is the way to get back your voice, so to speak in a democracy.”

At 21-years-old, Laura Downer has worked at the polls every election since the presidential election in 2016. “I really enjoy it and I’ll probably keep doing it forever,” said Downer. She says as a student interested in politics, her favorite part of working the polls is educating new voters about the election process.

“We are here to help you vote and that’s it and nothing else matters except for making sure you’re able to safely and easily exercise your right to vote,” Downer said.

Both Haimowitz and Downer spent most of their day processing absentee ballots at the Monona Terrace polling location.

“I feel like it’s just kind of our duty during this time with the pandemic going on to take over a little bit and help out where we can,” said Downer.

Last week, Governor Tony Evers mobilized the Wisconsin National Guard to assist as poll workers during the August primary. The City of Madison clerk says that some sites around Madison did have guard members working in civilian clothing. It’s not clear yet how were needed.

Election officials are hopeful the younger generation returns to work in November.

“It’s a really great opportunity for young people who are out of work even because you do get paid to do it,” said Downer. “I would encourage any young person that’s looking for something to do to consider signing up and helping out in November election because that will be even more busy.”

To learn more about becoming a poll worker during the presidential election, click HERE.

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