ENCINITAS — As Election Day draws closer and the pandemic persists, registered voters must decide whether to brave crowded polls or vote by mail. Those who choose to cast their ballot in-person will face a socially distanced voting experience with masked volunteers.
In an effort to connect voters, volunteers, and election officials, Jacob Clark, a 16-year-old at San Dieguito Academy, has founded Poll Workers of America, an organization assisting future voters and poll workers in better understanding their local elections and getting involved during the pandemic.
After volunteering at the Ada Harris Elementary school polling location this primary season, Clark loved the experience and with the onset of coronavirus, was inspired to explore more.
“I saw the pandemic was taking over our lives and realized there was probably going to be a shortage of people who would work the polls, as so many of my colleagues at the primary were over the age of 50 and would be more at risk of catching it,” Clark said. “I started Poll Workers of America to reach as many people as I could on a local, state and national level.”
According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, poll workers must complete a mandatory training program, assist in set-up and take-down of poll sites, as well as understand concepts, election procedures and equipment.
The County Registrar currently offers several special worker programs for college students as well as state and county employees.
However, in light of the continued pandemic, the county has decided to postpone the high school student program that originally attracted Clark, though he says that doesn’t impact PWA’s mission.
According to Clark, the PWA has two main objectives, the first being to encourage those interested in working at polls to take action and get involved.
The second purpose, Clark says, is to “educate more young people, so they can understand how the process works.”
“I’ve heard almost everything from people my age,” Clark says. “They are excited, they are angry, or they want to tune out completely. There’s such a wide range of emotions from young people in our communities and around the country.”
PWA’s goal is to increase engagement among Clark’s generation and ultimately reduce the level of polarization in politics through social media.
Following elections on Nov. 3, Clark is considering shifting the program’s goals toward increasing civic engagement as well as focusing on regional and local issues.
Those interested in learning more or volunteering can visit PWA’s website (pollworkersofamerica.org) or reach out to [email protected]