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'Poll Hero Project' Aims To Recruit Younger Poll Workers For Election Day

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In a normal election year, most poll workers are typically older people. Coronavirus poses a higher risk to them.

NOEL KING, HOST:

So there's an initiative that's been launched to recruit thousands of high school and college students to be poll workers to make sure the election goes off without a hitch and to get young people involved.

LEO KAMIN: For a long time, I've been super interested in politics, and that's just a really hard thing when you're 15 or 16 or 17 years old because you're kind of, like, watching from the sidelines.

MARTIN: That's Leo Kamin. He's 17 years old and one of the co-founders of the Poll Hero Project, which is a nationwide effort. And their main goal is to protect democracy. He says they want to avoid long lines at polling stations by making sure they're fully staffed.

KAMIN: If you're forcing people to wait in line for three hours, that's definitely a form of voter suppression because people who work hourly jobs can't take three hours out of their day. We have to have more than just the ability to vote. We have to actually make voting efficient and easy.

KING: Now, you have to be 16 years old to be a poll worker, but 15-year-old Shahrin Rahman is just two weeks short.

SHAHRIN RAHMAN: I don't think anybody could be too young to do this type of work. I feel like once you start realizing that there's problems, you're already old enough to make change.

KING: But there's no law against enlisting people who are of age, and that's what Shahrin is doing.

SHAHRIN: I'm recruiting college kids, and it's a little bit hard because this is my first week.

MARTIN: Rahman says she became politically active after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

SHAHRIN: As kids, we see it differently than adults do. It's more eye-opening to us because growing up, we always thought that we lived in a perfect country. And as we grow up, we realize it's not as perfect as we thought. And that angers us, and we want to make change.

MARTIN: She wants to remind people to take advantage of the right she has not grown into yet.

SHAHRIN: Adults in America don't really use their privilege as much as they should. So just realizing that they're not exercising their right makes me want to do whatever I can to help them.

KING: Leo Kamin says the response to this project has made him hopeful.

KAMIN: You know, our generation will be helping to run things in 20 years, and it really seems like everybody I talk to is super committed, super passionate about just democracy in itself, not their own personal views.

KING: In only two months, the Poll Hero Project says they've recruited almost 10,000 young poll workers.

(SOUNDBITE OF VULFPECK'S "SMILE MEDITATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.