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Why This 17-Year-Old Wants To Be A Poll Worker

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Lucy Duckworth of Philadelphia has a memory of what Election Day used to be like.

LUCY DUCKWORTH: When I was little, I used to go, quote-unquote, "vote" with my parents. And I got to see them, you know, push the button and wear the sticker. The sticker was always a very fun part of that.

SIMON: But this year, Lucy Duckworth isn't going to the polls with her parents. She is not going to the polls to vote. Lucy Duckworth can't.

DUCKWORTH: I'm 17, but I can be a poll worker in Philadelphia, and I can help other people vote.

SIMON: Lucy Duckworth, a 17-year-old high school senior, will be working the polls on November 3. She's part of the Poll Hero Project, which has been recruiting young people to help on Election Day.

DUCKWORTH: I found out about the Poll Hero Project through Instagram, actually. In July, I was taking a writing class online, of course, and I wasn't working. My restaurant at which I usually work was closed due to COVID. I think it was a kind of difficult time for a lot of people who felt a little bit helpless. And, you know, what can I do in the upcoming general election? I can't even vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUCKWORTH: I started reading about this problem I didn't even know existed. You know, poll workers tend to be on the older side. Many of them have been doing this work for tens of years. And this year, specifically because of the pandemic, a lot of those workers don't feel comfortable coming out and working in person. And that's created really big issues. As we saw in the primaries, there weren't enough people to work the polls. So I signed up to volunteer with the project.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUCKWORTH: The Poll Hero Project does a lot of recruiting through social media, focusing on certain cities where poll workers are really needed. And once we get people to sign up, we have them repost one of our Instagram posts. Once we get, you know, maybe three or four people in a given school, in a given community to repost that, more and more members of that community are seeing that post and then are signing up without us even reaching out. From there, you know, they post, and it sort of grows on its own.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUCKWORTH: I think it's really important for young people, teenagers, even if you're not old enough to vote, to start getting involved with the process. Young people, across the board, participate in democracy the least. And we need to make sure we're showing up so that we see our voices reflected in decisions. And I think a great way to do that is to start by making sure that everyone can vote if they want to vote. That's great to start early as possible to make that a habit and make that a lifelong decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DUCKWORTH: You know, I don't want to speak for my older self, but I am so fired up about doing this. I really want to keep doing this for a while. The cool thing about poll workers is that so many of them, they come back year after year. And it's really exciting to think that process can start with a new generation right now. That's been really inspiring for me.

SIMON: Lucy Duckworth, a high school senior, looking forward to November 3, when she'll help voters cast their ballots in Philadelphia. So far, the Poll Hero Project says it signed up about 30,000 people to help out in their communities, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.