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Nonprofit recruiting 100K veterans to be 2022 election workers nationwide

A campaign called Vet the Vote is recruiting 100,000 veterans to be poll workers in the 2022 midterm elections. (Photo courtesy of Joe Plenzler){ }
A campaign called Vet the Vote is recruiting 100,000 veterans to be poll workers in the 2022 midterm elections. (Photo courtesy of Joe Plenzler)
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A new campaign called "Vet the Vote" is recruiting 100,000 veterans, as well as their loved ones, to be poll workers in the 2022 midterm elections.

Joe Plenzler is a board member of We the Veterans, a nonprofit organization that helped implement the movement. He said there has been a nationwide shortage of election workers, with the coronavirus pandemic contributing to the deficiency.

The typical election worker is 65 and older -- 25% of them are 70 or older – and COVID just scared a ton of them away, with good reason,” Plenzler told The National Desk during a phone interview on Wednesday. “We can’t just leave it up to our oldest fellow citizens to do this, especially with the pandemic still going on. It’s important to do and it’s a great way to volunteer.”

The shortage has led to a decrease in the number of polling locations, causing voters to face long lines and wait times.

There are more than 17 million veterans in the United States and if we can get a slice of them to volunteer, that would help alleviate that problem,” Plenzler said, adding that he hopes military family members also volunteer.

Plenzler said his wife, Kate Germano, inspired him to become an election worker. The couple met in the 1990s when they were serving in the United States Marine Corps., with Germano volunteering as a poll worker in their Maryland community during 2020.

He said she told him it was one of the most patriotic experiences of her life.

She said it was so cool to see people exercise their right to vote,” Plenzler said. “For our entire 20 years in the Marine Corps., we always voted by absentee ballot, so we just filled out the bubbles, put it in the mail, and that was our voting experience. But it really moved her, and I was like, ‘I’d really like to see that,’ so, I volunteered with her.”

Now, they hope to encourage other veterans from across the nation to join forces with them.

“There’s power in numbers,” he said.

Volunteers are responsible for greeting voters, directing them to sign-in tables, checking identifications depending on the state, giving them the appropriate ballots, operating ballot counters, and more.

Poll workers are all trained — and some are paid.

According to the Election Assistance Commission, “election workers are essential to ensuring that elections are a success. With each election, millions of Americans dedicate themselves to sustaining the backbone of democracy.”

Plenzler said it’s less about politics and more about civics, with organizations striving to connect people regardless of their political affiliation.

In today’s hyper-partisan environment, it’s nice to see people from all different kinds of political beliefs coming together to help their fellow citizens vote,” he said. “You have to help everybody; you can’t just help people affiliated with your party.”

Plenzler added that being a part of the process has the potential to restore any doubt about the outcome of recent elections.

“We’re encouraging veterans who might be skeptical of the process to do it," Plenzler said. "Kate and I went through four hours of in-person training, learning how to properly handle the ballot counter machines and electronic ballot markers. You understand that none of that is connected to the Internet. It’s all plugged into drives. The level of security and attention to detail that goes into the whole process is impressive.”

Established in early 2022, Plenzler said Vet the Vote is comprised of about 30 veteran and military service organizations, civic groups, as well as the National Football League. It is a pro-democracy, non-partisan effort, with each group motivating its members to participate.

Campaign members include the following:

Plenzler said Vet the Vote is recruiting poll workers using web-enabled infrastructure developed by Power the Polls, described as a non-partisan initiative that was founded in 2020 to recruit poll workers “to ensure a safe and fair election for all.”

“We’re communal creatures as humans and we need each other to survive,” he said. “I think it’s a great way – especially with COVID and all the isolation that we went through with the pandemic, it’s a great way to connect with people we wouldn’t normally meet in the community and serve alongside them. Veterans will gain an understanding that there are more ways to serve their country. It’s gratifying and really cool to see the democracy that you put your life on the line to support and defend function and be part of making it function.”

So far, he said, more than 1,000 veterans have signed up.

In a news release, veterans shared their emotions about previous volunteer efforts.

When I retired after 40 years in uniform, I looked for ways to continue to serve, so I volunteered to be an election poll worker,” said Gen. George Casey, U.S. Army (Ret.). “This might seem like a small thing, but I was involved with elections in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, and I marveled at the impact that freely voting had on the people that voted. It’s something we should never take for granted. Please join me in this important work.”

Others agreed. They included Military Officers Association of America President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), along with Admiral Steve Abbot, USN (Ret.), who is a former Acting Homeland Security Advisor to the President of the United States.

Our nation’s veterans often seek ways to continue serving our country,” Atkins said. “Working the polls to help fellow Americans fulfill a critical civic obligation is a noble mission and one the Military Officers Association of America is proud to support.”

Abbot feels the same.

"Democracies run on elections and elections run on volunteers,” Abbot said. “Our democracy needs veterans to serve again, this time by volunteering to be poll workers. Please join me and sign up to be a poll worker for the 2022 elections."

Plenzler shared similar sentiments. He said he believes volunteering to be a poll worker is just as important as jury duty.

"I think every citizen should do it at some point in their lives,” Plenzler said. “I think once they’ve done it, they will better understand how the machinery works and come away from that with a higher level of confidence in the outcome of elections.”

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Plenzler said veterans and civilians alike are encouraged to sign up as a volunteer through the VetTheVote website. The website then directs each participant to their respective county’s Board of Elections.

We really do want the community to come together," he said. "This is a great way to engage with your community. You’ll see people from all walks of life come into the polling station and be able to interact with them all.”
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