January 12, 2021

Booth Alum's Poll Hero Project Organizes Thousands of Young Poll Workers

A voter at Cornerstone Baptist Church came armed with gloves, goggles, and Lysol spray to stay safe while casting her ballot.

A voter at Cornerstone Baptist Church came armed with gloves, goggles, and Lysol spray to stay safe while casting her ballot.

Caroline Kubzansky / The Chicago Maroon

The Poll Hero Project, a voting initiative cofounded by UChicago Booth School of Business alumnus Avi Stopper, Princeton University students, and Denver East High School students, utilized an intuitive website in order to simplify the process of signing up for poll work for the 2020 elections. As a result, tens of thousands of teenagers organized to run the elections. The organization was able to recruit 37,398 young people to be poll workers during the 2020 election.

Founded in 2020, the Poll Hero Project first focused on federal funding for mail-in voting as a result of the threat the pandemic posed—and still poses—to Americans. However, as Election Day drew closer, activists and election officials identified another problem: Poll workers tend to be elderly and therefore more vulnerable to COVID–19. This led to a potential shortage of poll workers that could oversee the voting process.

As a result, the Poll Hero Project filled the gap with high school students like Alyssa Price, a junior at Jones College Prep High School in Chicago. Price originally learned about the Poll Hero Project from friends, although she did not initially know that people under 18 could work at the polls.

“Once I heard about that, I thought it would be a good opportunity to sort of do my civic duty and be a person who’s involved in politics, because personally, I have not always been the most politically active person,” Price said.

According to Price, she also joined the project because she was motivated by a desire to better understand the democratic process and get involved in the election. She described the Poll Hero Project as a tight-knit community that is dedicated to the nonpartisan maintenance of the election process.

“I think it is very community-based,” Price continued. “The email threads are long, but there is a lot of communication within every layer because even if you are not doing the same thing within the organization, you are still connected with those people.”

On Election Day, Price’s shift started at 5 a.m. and ended at 9 p.m. Her job consisted of two basic parts: giving people their ballots to sign off on them and directing people to where they were supposed to go. Despite the long hours and tedious work, the voting at the polls went smoothly. Price told The Maroon that her precinct did not experience the long lines

Due to Stopper and the Poll Hero Project, teens like Price were involved in an election with the highest voter turnout in a century, with nearly 160 million Americans casting their ballots in person and by mail. At present, the Poll Hero Project plans to continue its work in upcoming election cycles, with Stopper remaining at its helm.