AUSTIN, Texas — Early voting for the Texas primary runoff election begins in less than a week. The runoff was pushed back due to concerns about the coronavirus, and some longtime poll workers said they are sitting this one out. Now, civic organizations are hoping a younger demographic will fill the need.
What You Need To Know
- Primary runoff election in Texas is July 14
- Average poll worker is 60- to 65-year-old
- Younger workers needed because of COVID-19
According to county officials for the July runoff, Travis County alone needs 700 poll workers for Election Day, and 280 workers for the early voting period. Joyce LeBombard, former president of the Austin-area League of Women Voters, a group that aims to inform and encourage people to exercise their right to vote, said she believes poll workers will look younger than usual during the pandemic.
“Our poll workers, the average age probably is above 60 to 65, and that's the demographic that is most at risk with the pandemic going on. So, we really need to be able to have some younger poll workers come in to replace those who may not feel comfortable or be able to,” she said.
LeBombard told Spectrum News since former poll workers are not going to risk their health, there is an effort underway to recruit younger Texans to participate in the democratic process.
“Regardless of the pandemic going on or not, having younger generations and people getting involved just helps strengthen our democracy more going forward,” LeBombard said.
Mateo Clarke is a software developer that co-captains Open Austin, a volunteer organization that uses technology to enhance civic engagement. Clarke, a San Antonio native, is involved in different community-based initiatives.
Recently Open Austin helped the League of Women Voters streamline the process to become a poll worker by developing an online form that goes directly to county officials. Clarke, who is 31 years old, decided to sign up to become a poll worker for the first time.
“It’s a really big opportunity for people that say they care about local government or care about civic engagement. It's a really important opportunity for people that might not be as vulnerable to step up,” he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Travis County officials said they have filled more than 95 percent of the early voting sites, and 79 percent of the locations for Election Day. Clarke said he plans to also be a poll worker in November.
“It's really important that our democracy has processes and has polls to take people's votes. As soon as that starts falling apart, and people stop caring about it, then we start slipping away from a democracy,” Clarke said.
The runoff was originally scheduled for May, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott postponed it due to health and safety concerns. He also increased the early voting period to two weeks instead of one. Early voting begins June 29.