Coalition launches effort to get veterans to the polls – as workers
A bloc of military, veterans and civic groups joined forces to address a nationwide shortage of campaign volunteers ahead of the November vote, encouraging military family members and veterans to step up.
The Vet The Vote coalition, led by the non-partisan group We the Veterans, wants 100,000 former military personnel and military dependents to serve at polling stations this fall.
Organizers said at a press conference marking the launch of the initiative on Tuesday that the veteran and military community is a reliable source of volunteers who can help lead by example by working in the polls and speaking out. their confidence in the country’s electoral system.
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“Our mission is to empower the more than 17 million veterans and millions of other military family members to strengthen American democracy by reducing the impact of error and misinformation, countering anti- -democratic and increasing positive civic engagement,” said Anil Nathan, co-executive. director of We the Veterans.
Across the country, election officials reported a shortage of election workers at polling places, leading to some sites closing during primary elections, including in Texas in March and Chicago on Tuesday.
The shortages have been attributed to retirement as well as concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. According to state officials, approximately 130,000 election workers have left their posts over the past twelve years as they age. About 60% of registered election workers in the United States are 61 or older.
Workers in some locations, particularly those where ballots were contested in the 2020 election, also cited intimidation and fear as factors in not returning to work.
Vet The Vote’s goal is to attract more volunteers to polling places nationwide to avoid polling place closures resulting from labor shortages. But the initiative will focus more on states that desperately need it, including six with acute shortages like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona, according to Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of We the Veterans.
“What we do know is that veterans and our community are really well dispersed across the country, and we’re hoping that by doing a national push, we can engage as many veterans as possible,” a- she declared. “But then if we’re going to get more local in terms of areas where the need is exceptionally high, we’re hoping that through some amazing partner organizations we can target some of those communities.”
Former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, now retired, volunteered in April as a poll worker in Arlington, Virginia. He said that as a soldier who helped organize elections in Bosnia and Kosovo, he learned the job of ensuring they are “free and fair”, adding that it is “something that we should never take it for granted as a country.”
Noting the pool of young veterans, the diversity of the population, and its dedication and service as an all-volunteer force, Casey called the military one of society’s most trusted groups.
“I put it all together, and these are exactly the kind of people who can go a long way in overseeing a disciplined electoral process and helping restore a level of trust in our electoral system,” Casey said.
The push for veterans and military family members to work in the polls comes amid efforts by states, localities, political parties and organizations to fill positions left vacant by longtime volunteers, mostly retirees older, who resigned during the coronavirus pandemic.
But the intimidation of workers has also alienated volunteers. Shaye Moss, a scrutineer from Georgia who testified this nth before the House committee on Jan. 6, said she and her grandmother, also a scrutineer, received death threats and were targeted by supporters of Donald Trump after the November 3, 2020 vote count.
According to Moss, none of the permanent co-workers or supervisors at the vote counting site where she was working that day returned to their jobs.
Vet The Vote officials say now is the time for veterans and military families to help restore confidence in the electoral process, regardless of their ideology or political belief. By bringing in election workers who have served their country honorably before, with different backgrounds and backgrounds, they can “support and strengthen the electoral process,” Nathan said.
“It has no connection or affiliation with any level of partisanship,” Nathan said. “We know that without election workers there are a lot of consequences for delays and closures of election sites, which are ultimately – no matter who you support politically – a bad outcome when people are not unable to exercise their freedom to exercise their right to vote freely and fairly.”
Groups supporting the Vet the Vote initiative include Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the National Military Families Association, the Military Officers Association of America, and Student Veterans of America.
In addition to public outreach, the Vet The Vote campaign will recruit workers through the Web Power the Polls, a tool where volunteers and potential workers can register to support their polling station.
Poll workers and supervisors check ID cards, distribute ballots, oversee counts, provide stickers and pens, and do just about anything else at a polling place on Election Day .
Gustafson said these seemingly menial tasks make democracy work and elections couldn’t happen without volunteers, many of whom actually receive a salary for a day of training and work.
“As a military spouse, I learned that if every person in the military doesn’t do their job, the mission won’t be accomplished. [On Election Day]it’s actually those menial tasks, handing people the blue or black ink pen, checking those IDs, making sure people are now keeping a social distance that makes our elections work,” Gustafson said.
More information about Vet The Vote can be found on the initiative’s website.
— Patricia Kime can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime
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