A nonprofit that’s trying to quash skepticism about the U.S. voting process by recruiting veterans and military family members to work the polls said Thursday that the next few months will be “critical” to enlisting sufficient volunteers ahead of the presidential election.

We the Veterans kicked off its Vet the Vote campaign in February with the goal of hiring 100,000 poll workers. Ellen Gustafson, the group’s co-founder, said Thursday the group would likely hit that target, making veterans and service members a significant fraction of the overall number of volunteers needed to work the polls in November.

“We will get to 100,000, easily, of poll workers that we have personally recruited,” Gustafson said. “A little over a million across the country are needed for the national presidential election. So, we know we’re going to be 10% of that, and we think we can go higher.”

To reach the goal, the group is traveling state-to-state, hosting events with secretaries of state to teach people about the election process and relay the importance of getting involved in the voting process. Group members have recently traveled to Nevada, Arizona and South Carolina, and they’re planning more events across the country this summer.

Many jurisdictions start training poll workers in August for the presidential election and cease recruiting by September or early October, said Dan Vallone, director of Vet the Vote.

“A lot of states have concluded their primaries and have been gearing up for the election, which is why we’re really trying to make a big push on recruiting, as the need increases dramatically,” Vallone said. “Our big push and most intensive cycle starts in June and continues to mid-September.”

Widespread misinformation about the American voting process first prompted We the Veterans to recruit veterans and military families to work the polls in 2022. According to the group, their idea was to harness the social credibility and standing that veterans and military families hold and ask them to serve as trusted messengers about elections.

Experts are already tracking rampant misinformation about the upcoming presidential election, including domestic campaigns, as well as efforts by Russia and China to encourage Americans to question the validity and integrity of their voting process.

To further push against the idea that elections are “rigged,” We the Veterans is bringing together leaders of various veterans groups next week to discuss methods for using their positions of trust to renew Americans’ faith in democracy, Gustafson said. The event, held at Mount Vernon on June 13, aims to fight against the notion that the country is deeply divided.

“There’s an undercurrent of Americans working together all the time without regard to their political allegiance,” Gustafson said. “We’ll showcase how our community works together across many different backgrounds to accomplish things... and how other Americans can follow our lead and get in the game, not just sit on the sidelines behind a screen.”

This story was produced in partnership with Military Veterans in Journalism. Please send tips to MVJ-Tips@militarytimes.com.

Nikki Wentling covers disinformation and extremism for Military Times. She's reported on veterans and military communities for eight years and has also covered technology, politics, health care and crime. Her work has earned multiple honors from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the Arkansas Associated Press Managing Editors and others.

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