Some University of Delaware students are getting credit for working polls during the General Election.
Delaware elections officials say they need more poll workers for the upcoming general election than they had in last month’s primary.
Most poll workers nationwide were over age 61 in 2018’s General Election. With older adults more vulnerable to the coronavirus, some have worried it might be hard for elections officials to find enough poll workers this year.
A department at the University of Delaware is trying to help fill that need.
“Just in general there’s a need for poll workers. But this year I think it was especially an issue because of the pandemic and the fact that older people appear to be significantly more at risk than younger people,” said David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at UD.
Redlawsk started an independent study course this fall that allows students to earn course credit for working at the polls in November.
Working at a polling place on Election Day is not the only requirement of the course.
“I’m going to assign several readings about election administration, about voter ID and issues relating to that,” said Redlawsk. “Then they will write a reflection paper about their experience at the polls.”
Just four students signed up for the course.
“We had to get clearance that the state Board of Elections was appropriately handling protocols for the pandemic before UD would sign off on letting students do it under the UD name,” said Redlawsk. “So that slowed me down. So I think if we had had a little more time to advertise it, we’d have gotten more students.”
The state is looking for a total of around 3,200 poll workers for Election Day. Elections officials say so far close to 2,500 are recruited.
Nick Ulizio, a sophomore at UD, was among a handful of students who signed up for the course. He says he was already planning to work the polls on Election Day, which he has done several times before
Ulizio notes that traditionally, poll workers skew older.
“It’s kind of our turn as younger people to step up and basically take over for them since this year they can’t do it,” he said.
Delaware Election Commissioner Anthony Albence says he is “very excited” about the UD course.
“We want to encourage people of all ages, certainly, to work, but especially young people,” said Albence. “It’s important for them to get engaged and to know that they’re welcome in the process.”
All registered Delaware voters, students attending college in Delaware, and high school students age 16 or older can be elections officers. Poll workers are paid.
Correction: A previous version of this story said the state needs 4,500 poll workers for the General Election, as stated on the Department of Elections website. Elections officials have clarified that 3,200 poll workers are needed for the General Election; 4,500 is the total number of positions for all elections throughout the year. This story has also been updated to include the number of poll workers recruited for the General Election so far.