Veterans group hits goal of recruiting 100,000 election workers

by Vern Evans

When voters head to the polls to cast their ballots this November, at least one out of every 10 election workers they see will be a veteran or a family member of a veteran, said Ellen Gustafson, the co-founder of a nonprofit that recruits military-connected individuals to volunteer at polling places.

The nonprofit, We the Veterans, reached its goal this month of recruiting 100,000 people to serve as poll workers in their communities. As of Wednesday afternoon, 136,815 had signed up. In total, about 1 million temporary workers will be needed to staff polling locations across the country this November, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Those workers welcome and check in voters, issue ballots and explain how to use voting equipment. Having veterans and their family members perform those tasks lends credibility to the process and helps quash skepticism during a time when public trust in the government is low, We the Veterans believes.

“You can be pretty confident that when you go vote, somebody in the direct line of your ballot is a veteran or military family member,” Gustafson said. “We think this is a great opportunity to engage our population in an important civic service, and we think a side benefit is that having our most trusted group of Americans doing the work of running elections should absolutely bring more trust across America into the process.”

Widespread misinformation about the voting process first prompted We the Veterans to recruit veterans and their families to work the polls in 2022. That year, the group recruited 63,500 people.

Disinformation creates ‘precarious year for democracy,’ experts warn

The group launched a renewed “Vet the Vote” campaign in February at the Super Bowl. Now that the group has surpassed its goal, it’s going to continue signing up as many veterans and family members as it can. Many jurisdictions start training poll workers in August for the presidential election and cease recruiting by September or early October, said Dan Vallone, director of Vet the Vote.

“The new way we’re looking at it is that we want to have as large a proportion as we can get,” Gustafson said.

We the Veterans also plans to continue its voting education programs. The group began traveling state-to-state last year, hosting events with secretaries of state to teach communities about the election process. Group members have recently visited Nevada, Arizona and South Carolina, and they’re planning more events across the country this summer.

Aboard the USS Yorktown near Charleston this May, We the Veterans hosted an event during which veterans walked people through a mock election process, explaining the check-in process and how voting machines worked.

Experts are already tracking rampant misinformation and disinformation about the upcoming presidential election — including domestic campaigns, as well as efforts by Russia, China and Iran — designed to encourage Americans to question the validity and integrity of their voting process.

“We believe giving people that education is a really important service in this time when there’s so much confusion,” Gustafson said. “A baseline education in how elections work can go a long way in building trust in the system.”

This story was produced in partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism. Please send tips to [email protected].

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