Uncle Sam Needs You ... to Be a Poll Worker for This Year's Election

Joint Task Force Guantanamo trooper casts his ballot in a voting drive, Oct. 21, 2008. (Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs photo by Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn Larson)

As the campaign trail heats up this summer, the nonprofit We the Veterans group has launched its own full-court press to convince former troops and family members to sign up as poll workers on Election Day.

The group's Vet the Vote campaign, which kicked off in February, aims to recruit 100,000 poll workers across the nation on Nov. 5. With the primaries wrapping up, local election boards are turning their focus to the presidential election, and the "next few months are critical" for rallying volunteers, according to Daniel Vallone, an Army veteran and director of Vet the Vote.

"The need increases dramatically for the general election," Vallone said during a press conference June 6. "Our big push and most intensive cycle starts in June and continues really into mid-September."

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We the Veterans was established to focus on civics education and to build faith in American democracy by encouraging veterans and military families to remain engaged and active in their communities after leaving the service.

The Vet the Vote initiative, backed by a coalition of veterans organizations and overseen by We the Veterans, aims to address skepticism and reduce mistrust in the election system by recruiting a trusted source of volunteers -- veterans -- to man polling sites and serve on local election boards.

In 2022, the campaign recruited 63,500 poll workers. This year, the group believes it can exceed 100,000, according to Ellen Gustafson, the executive director of We the Veterans.

"A little over a million across the country is [what] the national presidential election needs in general, so we know we're going to be at 10% and we think we can be higher than that," Gustafson said during the press conference.

As part of its recruiting effort, the group has partnered with states including West Virginia, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and South Carolina to understand their needs for fully manning their polls while also hosting events to educate residents about the election process.

We the Veterans is planning a broader event on the eve of Flag Day at George Washington's Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia, that aims to bring together veterans groups to discuss the important role of veterans in civic engagement -- building trust in American institutions by continuing to serve in some capacity and demonstrating unity instead of discord.

The event, which will be livestreamed Thursday, aims to educate veterans and their families on how they can help overcome divisions within the U.S. and help others do the same.

"So many -- especially post-9/11 veteran organizations and military family groups -- are really focused on continuing the service and what else they can do for the country, not so much looking inward and what we need for ourselves," Gustafson said.

With heightened concerns about mis- and disinformation from nation states such as Russia and China and domestic efforts to undermine the integrity of the election process, the need for veterans to step up and work the polls is greater than ever, according to Gustafson.

"We have a lot to teach the rest of the country about this concept of patriotic participation and what it means to be an active patriot, to be an active citizen, not just sit behind Facebook and talk about what you believe," she said.

Gustafson said former service members are uniquely qualified to be poll workers, since they already have a sense of civic duty and were required to be apolitical -- also a requirement of being a poll worker -- while wearing the uniform.

"Some people assume that the military is all right-leaning, maybe even far-right leaning, and then you get the other people who say the military is woke. The fact that both these perspectives live quite loudly in the public discourse suggests to me that neither can possibly be true," Gustafson said. "[The military community has] always been very pluralistic."

More information on Vet the Vote can be found on the initiative's website.

Related: Coalition Launches Effort to Get Veterans to the Polls -- As Workers

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