If you didn’t have much of an incentive to register to become a poll worker for this year’s election, Center City eatery Mission Taqueria now has a delicious one for you.
This year, there is an unprecedented shortage of poll workers who are signed up to work on election day for 2020—COVID-19 has hit many aspects of life, and that now includes voting. According to statistics listed in a release from the Voter’s Project, an overwhelming percentage of traditional election day poll workers are over the age of 60. Many of these poll workers are understandably hesitant to return to polling stations this Election Day due to the ongoing pandemic. So, without younger and more diverse poll workers, our Pennsylvania voters have the potential to have similar long lines, long waits and disenfranchisement seen in state primaries such as Georgia and Kentucky.
To combat this pending problem, Mission Taqueria co-owner Daniel McLaughlin is organizing a coalition of restaurants to help incentivize Philadelphians to sign up to be poll workers by providing a free meal delivered to them at their polling place on election day. Confirmed restaurants participating in the new coalition, titled Fuel the Polls, include Oyster House, Middle Child, Martha, Mike’s BBQ, Essen Bakery, Kalaya, Bing Bing Dim Sum/Cheu Noodle Bar, Laser Wolf, and Bunny Hop, a West Philly food kitchen, with a number of other restaurants expected to join as well.
“I’m so proud to live in a city where our votes really do have the chance to make a difference in our disadvantaged, perpetually handicapped elections,” said McLaughlin in a statement. “This should be easier, but it’s not. 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. 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.”
Mclaughlin is working with Power the Polls, a national campaign that is helping state and local governments manage polling applications and voter messaging. Power the Polls also recently worked with the Voter Project and REC Philly to secure a new wave of poll workers and put passionate and informed citizens right on the front lines of the electoral action with a concert earlier this month. Now, the hotspot Mexican eatery is also aiding the cause the best way they know how— with food.
To help pay for the food costs, Power the Polls will be helping Mission financially. According to the release, Philadelphia County is currently between 2,000 and 3,500 workers short of being able to fully staff all its polling places. The Philadelphia City Commissioners Office typically opens 800-plus voting locations, but without enough help, many will remain shuttered, creating longer lines, discouraged voters, and lower turnout.
That’s where Philly restaurants are coming in to help, and many of the spots working with Mission now for Fuel the Polls also partnered with Mclaughlin last year for “the most epic Friendsgiving ever,” a chef-driven potluck for 180 guests that served as a benefit for The Food Trust.
“I’m channeling all of my Friendsgiving energy into Fuel the Polls this year. In 2020, preserving our democracy is paramount, and there’s no better way to preserve our democracy than by taking part in it,” said Mclaughlin in a statement.
Those who are interested can sign up for Fuel the Polls at fuelthepolls.org when the site goes live this month on the 29th. Once assigned to a polling place, those who registered through Mission’s Fuel the Polls campaign will receive a free lunch from one of the participating restaurants.