Dariel Cardenas was born in Cuba and migrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. He became a citizen at age 16, and in a few weeks will vote in his first election. A recent graduate of iMater Academy in Hialeah, he attended a job fair held at the Miami-Dade Elections Department in Doral this past weekend after being laid off from work as an Olive Garden server.
“Getting a job would be awesome,” he said, smiling after hours braving the hot sun with hundreds of others. “I just turned 18 and I feel like I can really be involved in how this country moves forward.”
In the run-up to the Nov. 3 elections, the county elections department plans to hire 6,000 to 8,000 people including computer technicians, elections support specialists and technical training specialists. The pay rate will be around $17.06 per hour.
“We always hire temporary workers, but for a county-wide election which is what we have, we always hire [more],” said Miami-Dade Elections Deputy Director Suzy Trutie.
Stakes in this year’s election are particularly high. Not only is the presidency up for grabs, but so are many seats in Congress and the state legislature. County Commissioners Daniella Levine Cava and Esteban Steve Bovo are facing off for county mayor.
Miami has a long history of problems in voting that traces back even before the contested election of 2000. Ballots have been stolen, campaign staffers have purchased ballots from undercover officers, and once a dead man even cast a ballot. This year, the county is determined to do everything right, including hiring enough people for the madness that is election day.
“It’s always very important for any election to hire the appropriate number of people to staff every single precinct,” said Trutie. “Thankfully, in Miami-Dade County, not only do we hire people from the outside, but we also work with our colleagues in other county departments to make sure that every precinct is fully staffed for election day.”
Saturday’s event was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and applicants were required to have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record. They filled out paperwork and were told they’d be invited back if they qualified for the next round.
According to the United States Federal Reserve, the county hit a record-high rate of unemployment at 14.2% in July 2020, so plenty of people need the work.
Coco Polanco, a Venezuelan immigrant who now resides in Miami, came to the job fair in hopes of relieving some of the financial stress the pandemic has brought upon her. She stated that she has run through her savings this year and that this opportunity would help her get back on track.
“I lost three jobs and I haven’t been able to receive unemployment benefits,” she said.
Maria Delgado is 55. She said that she has been unemployed since March 18 and is looking for work. Delgado stated that an elections job “would be a great work opportunity. I would also be participating in the electoral process in a more active way.”
Ailyene Bracamonte, 21, has been unemployed for about three months. She said that she managed to work by doing Instacart, a grocery delivery and pick-up service. “I’m really just looking for work today,” Bracamonte stated. “I don’t really like getting into politics.”
After filling out the paperwork during the interview process, applicants are assessed based on their time commitment and availability. Maria Rosa is the recruiting department manager at Worksquare, the company in charge of the hiring process during the job fair. She said, “Once applicants successfully go through processing with the county, which entails passing a drug test and a background check, they will be called with a start date.”
Early voting for the general election starts on October 19 and ends on November 1. Election day is on Tuesday, November 3. Be sure to send in your mail-in ballots by October 1 to make sure that your vote is counted. If you are not yet registered to vote and would like to be, make sure to do so by October 5.
If you were unable to make it to the job fair, you can apply online or call (888) 815-9994.
Cardenas, the recent high school graduate, stated “Throughout high school, they tell us that we are the next generation and that how the country moves forward is based on our actions. This is a great opportunity to get involved.”