Church Hill resident hoping to inspire others by becoming a poll worker during critical shortage

Local Election HQ

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Several states including Virginia are reporting critical shortages of poll workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Voting looked a little different in the Virginia Primaries earlier this year — masks, plexiglass, and social distancing made for a new-look to the democratic process.

For the General Election, the crowds are expected to be much larger than the primaries and poll workers are needed.

One Richmond man has been trying to set an example by signing up to work the polls — in hopes that others will follow in his footsteps.

Doug Mercado lives in Church Hill and has been challenging his friends, neighbors, and all Virginians to sign up to be poll workers.

Mercado registered to be a poll worker himself during this year’s crucial election to protect those at risk.

The 57-year-old is looking forward to being a first-timer working the polls and is embracing the new experience.

“I think there’s nothing more important than making sure we have a reliable election every 4 years so I thought to myself I can certainly spend the time on election day to serve as a poll worker to make sure I exercise my democratic responsibilities,” Mercado said.

The Virginia Department of Elections is facing a critical shortage of poll workers due to the pandemic.

According to a Pew Research Center Study, nearly 60% of U.S. poll workers are 61-years-old and up. These statistics have been a consistent trend over the last few years.

However, the CDC lists those who are 60-years-old and higher as the most ‘at-risk’ for COVID-19 complications.

People are not signing up because they fear it is too dangerous.

“This is a difficult year where this isn’t going to be so easy for the elderly to serve as poll workers and I think it’s up to the younger folks to step up and make sure we’re there when they need us,” Mercado said.

The 57-year-old is urging young people to sign up and get involved.

Governor Northam has signed new legislation this year that made Election Day a state holiday — which could limit work conflicts by those who wouldn’t normally be able to work the polls.

To qualify as a Virginia poll worker, you must be:

  • 18-years-old or older
  • A United States citizen
  • A Virginia state resident

The 2020 General Election is Tuesday, November 3 — and there is still time to sign up to be a poll worker.

The pay is between $100 to $200 and you must be available Nov. 3 from 5 a.m. until the last ballot is submitted.

Register as an election official:

If your area is not listed, check with your local registrar for more information.

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