MOAA Joins Initiative to Recruit Veterans as Poll Workers

MOAA Joins Initiative to Recruit Veterans as Poll Workers
A member of the Wisconsin National Guard checks a voter into a polling place on May 12, 2020. Wisconsin was one of several states to rely on servicemembers for election support in 2020. A shortage of poll workers is projected for the upcoming midterm elections in that state and several others. (Photo by Wisconsin National Guard)

With a severe poll worker shortage forecast for this year’s midterm elections, a coalition of veterans groups has banded together to recruit 100,000 veterans and family members to work the polls.

 

Vet the Vote offers online registration for anyone interested in serving as a poll worker in their community. The effort, championed by the nonprofit We the Veterans, includes MOAA and 14 other veterans groups such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, and the National Military Family Association. The NFL also will leverage its voice to promote the initiative to the more than 17 million veterans.

 

“Our nation’s veterans often seek ways to continue serving our country. Working the polls to help fellow Americans fulfill a critical civic obligation is a noble mission and one the Military Officers Association of America is proud to support,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret). 

 

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Gen. George Casey, USA (Ret), the Army’s 36th chief of staff, said during a Tuesday press conference that he will serve his community as a poll worker.

 

“[Veterans are] a smart, diverse, trusted, and committed group of men and women who already had the courage to serve their country in difficult times,” Casey said. “This group of people will be just the kind of people that can contribute greatly to overseeing a disciplined election process and help restore a level of confidence to our electoral system.”

 

Election offices saw 130,000 poll workers stop serving over the last three midterm elections, according to We the Veterans. COVID-19 and its disproportionate effect on older populations played a large part in that decrease; most poll workers are over age 61, and about a quarter are over 70.

 

In 2020, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers activated the state’s National Guard to assist as poll workers during primary elections. Guard members helped with New Jersey elections in 2020 and again last year.

 

Going into the 2022 elections, We the Veterans co-founder and military spouse Ellen Gustafson is aware of poll worker shortages in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia. Gustafson believes the coalition’s diverse veterans groups and corporate entities like the NFL and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes foundation will help spread the word to communities struggling to recruit volunteers.

 

“Veterans are well dispersed across the country,” Gustafson said. “And so what we are hoping is that by doing a national push, we can engage as many veterans as possible.”

 

We the Veterans board member Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler, USMC (Ret), hopes to double the goal of veterans for the subsequent election. Eventually, he would like to see election volunteering become an expectation of veterans, similar to enrolling in the VA or speaking at Memorial Day events.

 

“We want to create a new norm,” Plenzler said.

 

In addition to championing the cause, individuals from the coalitions will serve as poll workers in their respective localities. This includes Casey and former MOAA Board Chairman Adm. Steve Abbot, USN (Ret). Both men serve alongside other retired senior military officials as co-chairs for Count Every Hero, a nonprofit also participating in Vet the Vote initiative.

 

“Somebody said … that democracy rests on elections and elections rest on volunteers,” Abbot said. “And I think that is absolutely true.”

 

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About the Author

Kipp Hanley
Kipp Hanley

Hanley is MOAA's staff writer. He has spent the last 26 years working in  journalism and public relations.