Chicago Booth alum launches startup to train young poll workers

“I feel a sense of obligation to my children,” added Stopper, a father of two. “When they ask me 25 years from now: ‘What were you doing in 2020?’ I want to be able to say, ‘I gave it my absolute all to make a difference in your world.’”

So, he began investigating various avenues to make an impact on the coming election. One day, his wife forwarded an email about students from Princeton University, her alma mater, who needed summer opportunities after their internships were cancelled because of the pandemic. “I love working with young people to begin with,” Stopper said. “I thought it would be more fun and interesting to have young people with me on this democracy startup exploration.”

A group of those Princeton students soon joined students from Denver East High School in Colorado—where Stopper lives—to work as a cohort of researchers. After speaking with experts and academics, they recognized the dire need for poll workers, and the seeds of Poll Hero were sown.

“Poll Hero, to me, is bringing together established startup methodologies with the raw enthusiasm, passion, and incredible knowledge of the tech landscape possessed by Gen Z,” Stopper said. “Those two ingredients, plus a passion and enthusiasm for defending democracy that Gen Z possesses, I think, to a really remarkable degree. That’s kind of the magic formula here.”

Stopper is not certain what the post-election future holds for Poll Hero, or for the thousands of young volunteers who have been inspired to join his effort. For now, he is focused on Poll Hero’s mission to help anyone who wants to vote in person be able to do so. 

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“I believe deeply in democracy,” Stopper said, “and I think that one of the lessons that I have come to appreciate—perhaps more than any other—is that democracy is not a spectator sport.

“There are a lot of people in the Booth universe who are extremely capable and talented. The more time people spend contributing to their democracy, to our institutions, to upholding the tenets established in the Constitution, the more we can make a difference.”

—A version of this story was first published by the Booth School of Business.

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