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Ahead of early voting, Milwaukee has plenty of poll workers thanks in part to a teenager

Posted at 10:54 PM, Oct 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-18 23:55:36-04

MILWAUKEE — You could see some young faces working the polls if you're planning to vote early or on Election Day, thanks in part to the efforts of one Milwaukee teenager.

17-year-old Jacob Major says he'll never forget the April 7 primary election.

"By pure coincidence I saw the large lines outside Riverside University High School, and I saw democracy fail," Major said.

The pandemic created a poll worker shortage. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reports most of the poll workforce is over the age of 61, making them more vulnerable to complications of the virus.

The Marquette University High School student said he wanted to do something about it, so he joined Poll Hero. It's an organization that helps get young people to sign up as poll workers or election inspectors.

According to the organization's Instagram account, its galvanized more than 30,000 poll workers across the country.

Major said there are about 800 sign ups in Wisconsin, the majority of which are in and around the Milwaukee area.

"Me bringing them this opportunity is an incredible experience," Major said.

It appears his efforts have made a difference. Milwaukee elections officials announced last week more than 4,000 people have signed up for election training, which is well over the 2,400 needed to staff its traditional 173 polling sites. They are no longer accepting applications for 2020.

"We have done more than what was expected in order to prevent another disaster," Major said.

"I think if that many people have decided that even in the middle of a global pandemic that they are low risk enough and that they are committed enough to doing the training and spending a day working at the polls, I do think that could easily be thought of as some sort of commitment, some sort of level of enthusiasm about the process," said UW-Milwaukee Political Science Prof. Kathleen Dolan.

Separately, Milwaukee elections officials said they also have enough central count workers to process the surge of mail-in ballots.

According to My Vote Wisconsin, at least 32 counties are reporting poll staffing shortages.

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