In a Deep South state where voter suppression has soared since the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the top priority of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia is to protect and expand the right to vote for historically disenfranchised communities. And with elections systems across our country facing unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus, and with federal emergency funding at a premium, the recruitment and placement of skilled, highly competent poll workers is one of the most impactful responses to ensure access to the ballot.

The ACLU of Georgia has responded with its Poll Worker Recruitment Program, targeting highly qualified workers with relevant expertise. This means younger poll workers, less susceptible to COVID-19-related complications; those with IT experience who can easily troubleshoot equipment issues; and lawyers with the legal training to prevent procedural errors, such as improper use of provisional ballots, failure to legally cancel absentee ballots for in-person voters, and early closures of polling locations. Poll workers who understand the equipment and procedures can make the difference between scores of voters either successfully casting their ballots or being deprived of their vote.

“So many of the Election Day blind spots, whether they be procedural or technical, that disenfranchise Georgians can be resolved at the level of personnel,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “If our state’s poll workers are equipped with the expertise, the sensitivity, and the training to do their jobs well, the process is streamlined and no voter is turned away because of preventable error.”

“The ACLU of Georgia is committed to supporting our poll workers through the whole process: application, placement, and training by their local county,” said Christopher Bruce, political director of the ACLU of Georgia. “We’re investing in our poll workers’ preparedness and safety, and ensuring they have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively come Election Day.”

In partnership with civic organizations, bar associations, local businesses, and county officials, our Poll Worker Recruitment Program is a community-based ‘adopt-a-poll’ solution to Election Day staffing issues. When members of established organizations and those with legal expertise step up to serve as poll workers, trust in our elections system increases, and that, in turn, increases the likelihood that voters will overcome hurdles getting to the ballot box. And through a formal program for recruiting, placing, and supporting poll workers—providing educational resources, holding information sessions, and liaising with the counties to improve training and placement procedures—the ACLU of Georgia is preparing poll workers to deal competently with the challenges of what will certainly be a record voter turnout, along with new voting machines and the coronavirus.

“We work closely with counties to prioritize the placement of the workers we recruit, as their expertise will prove invaluable,” said Vasu Abhiraman, policy counsel of the ACLU of Georgia. “We also hope to help counties meet their needs when it comes to processing absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications. That’ll be the way many Georgians vote this year, and our workers can help the process run smoothly.”

“I felt compelled to serve my community and be a part of the solution, and so I signed up to be a poll worker. With the guidance of the ACLU of Georgia, I feel prepared to do my job and help my neighbors cast their ballots,” said Sahar Rajput, volunteer poll worker with the ACLU of Georgia.

Andrea Young is Executive Director; Christopher Bruce is Political Director; and Vasu Abhiraman is Policy Counsel with the ACLU of Georgia. The ACLU of Georgia enhances and defends the civil liberties and rights of all Georgians through legal action, legislative and community advocacy, and civic education and engagement. The ACLU of Georgia is an inclusive, nonpartisan, and statewide organization powered by our members, donors and active volunteers.

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Global Topics: Civil Rights, Civil Society, COVID-19 Response, Election, Infrastructure, Race, Equity, and Inclusion