Surge of Michigan students volunteer for election

A shortage of poll workers due to public health concerns has prompted college students across the country to step up and volunteer for the November 3rd election – especially in Michigan, where an effort to recruit 30,000 workers resulted in an overwhelming response from students at the University of Michigan and other colleges around the state.

Nineteen-year-old Annika Helenberger is a first-time voter and public health student at the University of Michigan, who volunteered to work at the city clerk’s on-campus satellite office where students, faculty and staff can vote.

"I think a really important part of elections, and then just democracy in general, is accessibility and making things easier for everyone to vote because everyone's vote matters and I want everyone to feel that way. So, when I heard about the satellite office opportunity and just being able to work with the election in general, I thought it was a great way for me to be an active citizen towards things."

The need for poll workers in swing state Michigan is critical as the state has implemented a law, passed in 2018, that allows voters to request absentee ballots without giving any reason. A record 3 million absentee ballots were requested for the general election.

That’s a lot of counting for folks like Ann Arbor city clerk Jacqueline Beaudry and her staff – particularly challenging given that many older workers who’ve volunteered in years past have chosen to stay home out of concern for their health.

"A lot of young people have offered to help us with the satellite office and also to help count ballots on Election Day. So, where we did have some gaps, we were able, with the university's help, to recruit a lot of new young workers."

College students also helped with the additional prep, which included inserting plexiglass between staff and voters – as, despite the challenging times, historic voter turnout is expected.

Video Transcript

- A shortage of poll workers due to public health concerns has prompted college students around the country to step up and volunteer for the November 3 election, especially in Michigan, where an effort to recruit 30,000 workers resulted in an overwhelming response from students at the University of Michigan and other colleges around the state. 19-year-old Annika Helenberger is a first-time voter and public health student at the University of Michigan who volunteered to work at the city clerk's on-campus satellite office where students, faculty, and staff can vote.

ANNIKA HELENBERGER: I think a really important part of elections and then just democracy in general is accessibility and making things easier for everyone to vote because everyone's vote matters and I want everyone to feel that way. So when I heard about the satellite office opportunity and just being able to work with the election in general, I thought it was a great way for me to be an active citizen towards things.

- The need for poll workers in swing state Michigan is critical, as the state has implemented a law, passed in 2018, that allows voters to request absentee ballots without giving any reason. A record 3 million absentee ballots were requested for the general election. That's a lot of counting for folks like Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry and her staff, especially challenging given that many older workers who volunteered in years past have chosen to stay home out of concern for their health.

- A lot of young people have offered to help us with the satellite office and also to help count ballots on Election Day. So where we did have some gaps, we were able, with the University's help, to recruit a lot of new, young workers.

- College students also helped with additional prep, which included inserting plexiglass between staff and voters as, despite the challenging times, historic voter turnout is expected.