There’s a Poll Worker Shortage in Milwaukee – But You Can Help

And get paid to do it!

We’ve heard a million times that it is important to vote, but less often, we hear about the importance of having enough workers at the polls. If there are not enough people to work the polls, the polls are not able to open. Thankfully, if you meet a few simple requirements and can take Nov. 3 off this year, you might be able to make some money and make a difference in your community this election season.

With the November General Election only a month away, initiatives like the Poll Hero Project and MyVote Wisconsin are asking for people, specifically young people, to step up and work the polls during the pandemic. The “veteran poll workers have to sit this one out,” MyVote Wisconsin’s website says, calling young people to “step up” and assist with running the election.

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Milwaukee hit nationwide news over the severe shortage of polls open during the April 7 election. Out of the 180 polling places that are normally open in Milwaukee, there were only five open in April. In August, for the partisan primary election, nearly 170 polling places were open, showing a significant increase but still not at full capacity for the city.

On Sept. 1 of this year, National Poll Worker Recruitment day, Milwaukee put out a lot of notices that they still need thousands of poll workers for the November election, according to Ben Bograd, a leader of the outreach team at the Poll Hero Project. The project alone has signed up 292 people to be poll workers in Milwaukee.

“This is a great way for young students to get paid, to serve their democracy and also be politically engaged – it’s a great way to serve your community,” Bograd, a student himself, explained to Milwaukee Magazine.

This year, at a significant increase due to hazard pay for the 2020 Fall Election, Election Inspectors can make $230 to work a full-day shift on Nov. 3. Chief Inspectors are paid $325 for the day this year. Both positions also are paid for a mandatory training. There is also a call for Bilingual Election Inspectors, so if you are fluent in English/Spanish or English/Hmong, that might be an option worth looking into as well.

Poll workers can do everything from check-in voters, help people register to vote, check photo IDs, process absentee ballots and even be the person who gives out the little “I Voted” stickers. You’ll find out what job you get to do prior to election day.

If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, the Poll Hero Project put together a pretty useful checklist and you can sign up through their website, but for the City of Milwaukee specifically, here’s what you do:

  • Visit the City of Milwaukee’s Election Commission website.
  • Download the application or complete it online for the position you would like to apply for.
  • Fill it out.

If you are not in the City of Milwaukee, MyVote Wisconsin suggests emailing your municipal clerk with “Poll Worker Applicant” in the subject line, expressing your interest. You can find more information here.

There are a few requirements for being a poll worker:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be 18 years old (except for high school poll workers)
  • Be able to read and write fluently in the English language
  • NOT be a candidate for any office to be voted on at the polling place at that election
  • Be a qualified elector of the county where the polling place is located.

High school students are also able to work at the polls, if they meet these requirements:

  • Are 16 or 17 years of age
  • Are enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in a public, private or tribal school
  • Have at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent
  • Have the written approval of their parent or guardian
  • Have the written approval of the principal of the school in which they are enrolled, if the student has less than a 3.0 grade point average
  • Reside in the municipality.

The Wisconsin Election Commission, the  City of Milwaukee Election Commission, MyVote Wisconsin and the Poll Hero Project all have more information about how to become a poll worker and help keep the polls open this election.

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Brianna Schubert is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine. She is studying journalism, psychology and Spanish and is in the Honors College at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.