— By Mark Rice, The Ledger-Enquirer, October 25, 2020 —
COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Five years ago, when she was a sophomore at Carver High School, helping democracy in the community wasn’t what motivated Alana Daniels to be a poll worker.
Daniels laughed as she told the Ledger-Enquirer, “Honestly, my first time doing it, it was 90% about the money, and the other 10% was that I got to get out of school for one day and I got 100s on every assignment that day. We didn’t have to make up work for Election Day. We automatically got a good grade on it.”
Now, at 21, Daniels has honed her skills as a poll worker and this year was promoted to area manager in charge of five out of the 25 Muscogee County voting precincts.
She has extra motivation to help conduct the 2020 election Nov. 3 in Columbus.
“I think my involvement can mean a lot to people my age and people younger than me to come in and step in,” Daniels said.
Daniels is a prime example of the success Muscogee County Elections and Registrations director Nancy Boren and her staff have had in attracting and training enough poll workers to not only fill the 500 positions but also to have a waiting list of more than 400.
That success comes amid a statewide shortage of poll workers, with an average age of more than 65 years old in Georgia, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
The program’s goal, Boren told the L-E, is to “instill a need for public service and knowledge of the electoral process for our younger children and, as they grow up, they continue in that process.”
Boren has seen the younger and older poll workers learn from each other.
“The younger kids were really good on technology,” she said. “The older people were good on detail and looking after things.”
HANDLING THE TENSION
The minimum age to be a poll worker is 16. And on her 16th birthday, Daniels started training for the May 2015 election, when she worked at the Rothschild precinct.
“I got to meet so many people and hear so many different stories from the people that I met,” she said. “I love it so much, I wanted to continue to do it.”
As a senior psychology major at Columbus State University, she plans to become a family and marriage therapist. She also wants to eventually run for public office. Meanwhile, she uses her psychology training to handle problems at the polls or while working part-time at the elections office.
“When someone comes in cursing you out or calls on the phone cursing, saying, ‘This isn’t right. This is wrong,’ you have to be understanding,” she said. “You have to let them know, ‘This is what’s happening. I understand why you’re feeling this way, but let’s focus on this.’
“No matter how they will talk to me, or no matter how many people on election day have really bad attitudes or don’t listen to anything you’re telling them, I’m so understanding and so calm and positive at all times. I think that’s my best quality.”
Boren credits the elections board paying what she called “fair compensation” for attracting more poll workers than needed.
Poll managers in Muscogee County earn $500 for the day and pre-election training. Assistant managers earn around $295 and clerks around $200, depending on the amount of training.
The Secretary of State’s office didn’t have exact figures available, but an office representative told the L-E informal research found the average clerk earns $125 on election day.
Boren also suggested another factor.
“I don’t know if it has to do with the COVID issue and the fears that we will not be able to staff precincts for Election Day,” she said, “but we’ve had a great outpouring of support from the community.”
Statewide, there’s been a shortage of poll workers this year. State officials launched a recruiting campaign that has attracted approximately 40,000 people willing to be poll workers for this election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
“When COVID-19 swept through Georgia, Georgia’s elderly poll workers stayed home to minimize their exposure to the pandemic,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in an email to the L-E.
Locally, only two poll workers out of the pool have said they aren’t returning this year because of COVID-19, Boren said.
“It tells me their focus and their commitment is on the process and continuing with the safety protocols we have in place, with the masks, the sanitizing of the voting equipment and the space after each use,” she said.
Boren said she hasn’t received any reports from contact tracing that somebody was infected with the coronavirus while being at a Muscogee County poll.
HOW TO BE A POLL WORKER
If you are at least 16 years old and a Columbus resident, you can get on the waiting list to be a poll worker by calling the Muscogee County Elections and Registration Office at 706-653-4392.
Read the entire story: https://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-news/youth-movement-helping-to-run-georgia-elections/Y7Y55M6VXRFZBAY34IBUJEYELU/