Wilson ‘19 alum Ella Gantman unites Gen-Z to defend democracy

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Graphic by Maisie Derlega

Sophia Ibrahim

Wilson Class of 2019 alum Ella Gantman has always been interested in politics, so when the election came around along with the unique challenge of COVID-19, Gantman knew she had to do something. And she knew Gen-Z could help her do it.

Gantman founded the Poll Hero Project in July of 2020 along with fellow Princeton students Ryan Schweiger, Kennedy Mattes, and Kai Tsurumaki. “We were inspired to start the Poll Hero Project because we wanted to tangibly help defend democracy this election,” Gantman said. “Poll worker deficits occurred because of health risks associated with COVID-19, and polling stations closing down means that some people won’t have the opportunity to vote.”

Gantman emphasizes that “the Poll Hero Project is the Gen-Z poll recruitment effort.” Gantman and Schweiger focused on the organization “being high school and college students recruiting high school and college students to be poll workers.” One of the main methods they promote their efforts is through social media, namely Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, where The Poll Hero Project has garnered the attention of various public figures such as Ben Stiller, Storm Reid, and Misha Collins.

Getting the attention of the public has been relatively easy for the founders of Poll Hero. “Our social media strategy was, trying to go viral as much as possible,” Gantman said. “Our Twitter quickly grew to over 8,000 followers with retweets from celebrities and some of our TikToks got hundreds of thousands of views. Our Instagram just got verified and I think that pushing so much content consistently was a huge part of our success.”

There are many different types of content involved in the Poll Hero Project, one of which being “to have the faces of our volunteers all over Instagram.” Gantman noted, “if you’re on our Instagram, you will see we have gotten pictures from so many young people which really gives a face to this movement.”

Poll Hero currently has a team of 110 student volunteers. Their main duties are to reach out to the students that sign up to be poll workers through the website. The volunteers then connect the students to the local election board that can assist them in signing up to be poll workers. Approximately 35,000 students have been registered to date.

For Gantman, a day in the life since the founding of Poll Hero Project has been tireless. Gantman “leads collegiate outreach to recruit college students by contacting university professors, coaches, student athletes, and clubs on college campuses through email and Instagram DM.” In addition, Gantman “write[s] emails to interviewers and media people, conducts interviews via Zoom, and leads and participates in meetings, discussions and other conversations with [her] team in order to reevaluate and improve their outreach models.”

If Gantman had any advice for those who are eligible to be poll workers she would say, “Become a poll worker! Poll workers get paid, protect our democracy and make elections possible.”