The nonpartisan organization finds politically active Instagram users with geotags for high schools in different cities, then asks them to become poll workers.
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More than 22,600 young people, including hundreds from Wisconsin, will be working as election poll workers in the Nov. 3 presidential election, thanks to a nonpartisan effort led by university and high school students.
Launched in July by Princeton University students, Denver East High School students, and a University of Chicago Booth School of Business graduate, the Poll Hero Project is recruiting young people through social media.
And while the Poll Hero Project initially focused its efforts in Denver and Philadelphia, it is expanding into other cities that are experiencing poll worker shortages.
“Although young people like to make their voice heard with protests, activism and social media reposting, it very rarely translates to becoming active in more traditional parts of our democracy that actually make the change,” said Jacob Major, 17, a Milwaukee resident and team leader for Poll Hero outreach in Wisconsin. “Becoming a poll worker is an incredible way of being heard and making others get their voice heard.”
The organization chose representatives in Milwaukee to help spread poll work information after learning the number of polling sites dropped from more than 180 to five in Milwaukee for Wisconsin’s April election.
The nonprofit organization has recruited 639 young Wisconsinites to work as poll workers for the November election. About half of them live in Milwaukee County, with most living in suburbs like Wauwatosa and Shorewood.
The organization finds politically active Instagram users with geotags for high schools in different cities and asks them to become poll workers, as well as asking them to repost their content.
Instagram users share content that encourages others to become poll workers and recommends friends who might be interested in signing up. Per usual on social media, these posts blow up and spread across the platform to be seen by other users.
“Through this we can create a chain reaction of getting interested people to sign up and getting others to post pictures on their stories,” Major said. “We can create these small nodes of virality in different local high school and college level communities so we can get as many people as we can sign up as possible.”
Poll Hero focuses on reaching out to youth poll workers, which is one of the reasons it uses social media so often. It’s also very efficient.
“Social media is by far the best way we can get as many people as we can to sign up in as little time as possible,” said Major.
Once an interested candidate is found, volunteers walk them through the sign-up process, which is sped up by partnership with local municipalities like the City of Milwaukee. Major said the organization had looked to expand to Green Bay and Madison, but rapidly approaching deadlines force Poll Hero to focus solely on Milwaukee.
According to Major, bringing the youth to the polls and to voting booths brings their voice out beyond protests and social media. Becoming a poll worker also introduces young people to their local political scene.
“It’s extremely important that young people take all this passion they have for politics and put it towards voting in the booth for politicians in the nation and at local levels,” Major said.