Statewide View: Help wanted: 30,000 poll workers on primary, election days


No one expected the 2020 election would be like this. The global pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, including our democracy. The administration of elections is now a public health issue, and the top priority of my office is to make sure that Minnesotans are not forced to choose between their health and their right to vote in this high-stakes year.

We need to make sure that polling places are safe for voters and for poll workers (sometimes called election judges). Part of that means reducing the number of people who vote in polling places. That’s why, consistent with public health guidelines, I’m encouraging every eligible Minnesotan to consider voting from home this year by using our absentee balloting system. It’s secure and easy.

But many people will need or want to vote in-person on Election Day, so we need to do everything possible to make that process safe and efficient.

Poll workers are essential to Election Day. They check in voters, register new voters, make sure that votes are accurately cast, and help count the votes. We need 30,000 of them to run a statewide election. It's no secret that our poll workers tend to be older. Some of these dedicated citizens have served for decades to make sure voting in the polling place runs smoothly, and that the election results are secure and accurate.

But this year, those very people are the ones who are most susceptible to COVID-19. We need others to take their place.


I’m calling on Minnesotans to work at a polling place. In a normal year, the benefits of serving are that you get to see the elections process from the inside, you get to meet your neighbors, and you even get paid. In 2020, the mission is even more important. We simply must help older Minnesotans avoid potential exposure. I know Minnesota is ready to answer the call and rise to the challenge.

Election administrators throughout Minnesota will be taking every possible measure to keep poll workers and voters safe in their polling places. Part of the recent federal stimulus package included funding to help run elections in a pandemic. My office is working with city and county governments to ensure that masks, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment will be available to every worker. Whatever the world looks like for the August primary and November general election, we will be ready to provide a safe option — for voters and for those who administer voting at polling places.

I’m committed, as always, to enabling Minnesotans to make their voices heard at the ballot box, whether that means voting from home or at a polling place. I know the spirit at the heart of Minnesota’s nation-leading voter turnout will inspire us to overcome this challenge, and I will do everything in my power to help.

If you’re ready to answer the call to service by being a poll worker, you can either go to or you can contact your city or county directly. Our democracy really needs you this year.

Steve Simon is the Minnesota Secretary of State. He wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

Steve Simon, Minnesota secretary of state

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