Saturday, October 13, 2007

How old are election poll workers?

I spent a pleasant day with my son on Friday at Illinois Institute of Technology, where I gave a guest lecture on electronic voting. One of the questions I always ask students is about whether poll workers would be able to notice someone trying to manipulate voting machines - as physical security of most of the machines is critical to the overall system security.

Poll workers are extremely dedicated individuals, frequently working 16 hours on election day for $100 - less than minimum wage. They do it out of dedication to our democracy, and I admire them. As my friend Ivy Main noted in a recent editorial in the Fairfax Times, the average age of a poll worker in the United States is 72, according the to US Election Assistance Commission.

In my talk at IIT, I asked the students how old the average poll worker is in their home precinct. One of the students responded "35 to 40" and another said "50", both of which shocked me. As I pointed out to the students, for every 40 year old, there must be a 100 year old out there, to keep the average at 70. [Of course, a dozen or so 75 year olds would also be enough to offset a 40 year old.]

Regardless of how many younger poll workers it takes, one of the issues, is that older poll workers are on average less technically savvy than younger ones, and certainly less technically savvy than someone who intends to use technology to attack the voting system.

I'm hoping to do my part - while I'm still above the 35-40 that the student mentioned, I can help reduce the average, and expect to starting in the spring. And I hope I'm still energetic enough at 72 to work as hard as the average poll worker!


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