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A major recruitment drive by Facebook to address the coronavirus-caused shortage of poll workers on Election Day has spurred 100,000 people to volunteer to work at polling stations, the social media giant told USA TODAY exclusively.

More than 1.7 million clicked on a notification at the top of the Facebook app to sign up with election officials in their state. Facebook says it estimates that 100,000 people enlisted as poll workers as a result of the campaign which was shown to users in the U.S. over the age of 18.

Facebook based the estimate on conversion rates it calculated from a few states it has partnered with.

Election officials all over the country have warned of an acute shortage of workers to staff in-person voting sites. Many poll workers are over 60 and at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. A reduction in the number of poll workers could result in longer lines or fewer polling locations in November, both of which could affect voter turnout.

  • North Carolina election officials told Facebook that over 11,000 people signed up from Saturday to Monday morning, with 60,000 people clicking the link on Facebook. State officials have said they need at least 25,000 poll workers this year.
  • South Carolina officials told Facebook that 20% of signups to date over the weekend came from its recruitment drive.
  • Iowa told Facebook it saw a 15 times surge in poll worker sign-ups over the weekend.
  • Michigan says it had a 12-16 times surge in poll worker sign ups, recruiting 5,000 people on the Saturday that Facebook ran the poll worker notification.

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“Poll worker shortages can mean long wait times at the polls or fewer polling places, which makes it harder for people to participate in the democratic process, so Facebook is doing its part to fill this gap,” Facebook’s vice president of product and social impact Naomi Gleit said in a statement. 

The social media giant is pulling out all the stops to encourage more Americans to cast their ballots, part of an unprecedented effort by social media companies to increase turnout during a highly contentious election cycle in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook has pledged to register 4 million voters ahead of the November election. Last week, it said it was more than halfway to its goal, logging 2.5 million registrations from Facebook, Instagram and Messenger users. 

This get-out-the-vote drive is a nod to the vast influence these platforms have on American political life and an acknowledgment of the harm from foreign interference and rampant misinformation in previous election cycles.

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