Veterans served the country, now they’re stepping up again

COVID-19 caused a critical shortage of election workers in the U.S
State and local officials are scrambling to staff polling sites for the November election.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 6:20 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - State and local officials are scrambling to staff polling sites for the November election. In many cases, military veterans are stepping up to serve their country yet again.

Having enough election workers can be the difference between waiting hours to vote and being done in just minutes. So this year, lawyers, teens and veterans are being recruited to staff the polls.

“Veterans and military family members care deeply about our democracy. We’re good at following rules. And we’re also really good at putting our party and our thoughts about politics aside for the greater mission of supporting America,” said Ellen Gustafson, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of We the Veterans.

Gustafson said Vet the Vote is a national campaign to recruit veterans – like Joe Plenzler, who served in the United States Marine Corp for 20 years. This is his first year serving as an election worker.

“When we come off of active duty and return to our communities, a lot of us are looking for that bond or that purpose in group that we’ve experienced so intensely in the military. So being able to volunteer to serve your community again, this time as an election poll worker, really gives a veteran a good sense of purpose,” said Plenzler.

He said this is another opportunity to protect and serve the institutions and processes he supported while in uniform.

“To come together with volunteers who are also Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – all coming together to staff a polling station and create some democracy so that our fellow citizens who are also Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote,” said Plenzler.

There are about 18 million veterans across the United States, and putting country over party is something they are used to doing.

“And so we thought what better group to be asked specifically to do this job of poll working in their local communities than military veterans and military family members,” said Gustafson.

The Lansing Clerk’s office told News 10 that the city has around 400 people signed up to be election workers this fall – they are not sure how many are veterans. The city is still looking to fill more positions to avoid staffing shortages on election day.

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