In a typical election year, Philadelphia faces shortages of poll workers, the people who dedicate their time on Election Day to sit at a polling place for 14 hours and guide voters through the process. This year, the shortages are worse because most repeat poll workers are retirees above the age of 60, who are now encouraged to stay home since they’re at higher risk of COVID-19 complications. Instead, younger Philadelphians need to step up to the task, and Mission Taqueria co-owner Daniel McLaughlin is offering an incentive: He’s organizing restaurants to deliver free meals to poll workers on November 3.
“If incentivizing people with a free lunch adds enough cool factor to this civic duty, then hey, we’ll make 300,000 burritos if that’s what it takes,” McLaughlin said in a press release. “I’m even prouder to be part of an industry with friends who not only care as much as they do, but who, when asked to help, will always show up.”
He teamed up with Power the Polls, a national initiative helping state and city governments recruit poll workers. Power the Polls is funding McLaughlin’s project, which he’s calling Fuel the Polls, by covering food costs for the participating restaurants.
So far, Pizzeria Beddia, Middle Child, Martha, Mike’s BBQ, Essen Bakery, Kalaya, Bing Bing Dim Sum/Cheu Noodle Bar, Laser Wolf, and Bunny Hop, a food-based mutual aid group in West Philly, are signed on, as well as Oyster House (McLaughlin opened Mission Taqueria, located upstairs from Oyster House, with Oyster House owner Sam Mink). McLaughlin is in the process of getting more restaurants on board.
Here’s how the free lunch works: Registered voters sign up to be poll workers through the Fuel the Polls website. If they’re approved and received an Election Day assignment, they’ll get lunch delivered on November 3. In addition to the free food, it’s worth noting that many counties, including Philadelphia County, pay poll workers. Philly’s poll workers make $200 for the day, plus $50 for the training they’re required to do beforehand.
Last November, McLaughlin hosted a chef-led potluck for Friendsgiving, serving 180 customers and raising more than $30,000 for the non-profit Food Trust. With that type of holiday gathering out of the question for this year’s Thanksgiving, McLaughlin said he’s focusing on Election Day instead.
“I’m channeling all of my Friendsgiving energy into Fuel the Polls this year,” he said in a statement. “In 2020, preserving our democracy is paramount, and there’s no better way to preserve our democracy than by taking part in it.”
Those interested in applying to be poll workers on November 3 can also sign up through the city or state (but no free lunch).
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