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When Americans cast their votes Nov. 3, things may look very different from what we have all grown used to. However, despite all the upheaval of the past year, one thing will hold true: voter turnout will play an absolutely critical role in determining not just the next president, but also who will claim dozens of statewide offices. Unfortunately, one of the groups of voters, in particular, is at risk of being unable to vote safely in person this year.  

Older voters traditionally have among the strongest turnout numbers on Election Day. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak still looming, and research still indicating that older individuals are at a greater risk of being seriously affected by the virus, many are worried about being able to safely head to the polls. 

This could have a major impact on the election outcome. A new bipartisan poll conducted by AARP indicates that voters 50 and over are poised to play an especially consequential role in key battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. With these states still considered toss-ups, voters 50 and over will surely be a major factor in who comes out on top.

While efforts have been underway to ensure that at-risk Americans can vote by mail this November, it is still essential that in-person voting remains a safe option for anyone who feels more comfortable casting their ballot in-person, as well as others who may simply have no other choice. 

Several roadblocks still exist before that’s possible. For one, the vast majority of poll workers in recent years have been older Americans, with more than half being 61 or older. Now, many poll workers are asking themselves whether lending a hand on Election Day poses a risk to their health.

Things are made even worse by the fact that poll workers are increasingly difficult to find. With a significant percentage now second-guessing whether they can participate this year, already dwindling volunteer numbers only complicate the situation.

That’s why officials must make a concerted push to encourage younger Americans to get involved on Election Day. Thankfully, organizations across the country, ranging from AARP and Power the Polls, to even high-profile celebrities, athletes, and sports organizations, are raising awareness and urging more people to serve as poll workers in their communities.

If these efforts are successful, we can overcome the challenges and ensure that everyone is able to head to the ballot box in-person while also observing all local health guidance and remaining socially distanced.

Americans 50 and older are set to play an even bigger role in this upcoming election than they ever have before. The outcomes decided this November will shape the future of our nation and because of this, we cannot afford to leave any eligible voters without a voice. In the midst of a pandemic and a nationwide poll worker shortage, we need younger Americans to recognize this opportunity and step up as poll workers, so everybody can have their say without fearing for their health or that of their families. 

Jesse Grady is a Juris Doctor candidate at the University of Maryland, a Master of Business Administration candidate at Johns Hopkins University, a former regional field director for the Texas GOP, and a former staff member of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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