In the US, we have a large and organized workforce that otherwise goes unnoticed during the elections. The workers on election day are composed of volunteers and government workers alike, each of them responsible for keeping the wheels of democracy in our country rolling. Without poll workers on election day, we would be facing long lines and possibly even more interference in our elections. Thus, it is important we recognize them and their efforts in order to attract more volunteers to this critical service in our society in order to improve the process and experience of voting.
The Importance of Poll Workers
“Poll workers play a crucial role in ensuring the strength and integrity of the voting process”, is the main consensus of the Fair Elections Center Organization, a nonpartisan voting and elections reform organization based in D.C.. Poll workers, usually comprised of older, more politically involved citizens, work from the start of early voting up until after election day, and they work all day long. They are responsible for setting up the “VOTE HERE” signs you will see scattered around polling locations, as well as all of the voting machines inside before the polls open. Then, most poll workers will assume their positions for the entire day, typically in the range of twelve hours, helping voters get in line in order to correctly cast their ballots, while ensuring no voter fraud is taking place. Once the polls have closed, they must wait for all of the voters in line to cast their ballots, so that they may begin the process of taking down the machines and tallying the votes. Typically, their day does not end until an hour and a half has passed after the polls have closed for the day.
For being an integral part of democracy in our country, poll working is an incredibly demanding position for its workforce. The obligation to work from before dawn until after dusk is not all that poll workers must do. As a poll worker, especially someone applying for their first election, it can be rather tricky and demoralizing. You must be able to prove you are a US citizen, fill out I-9 documentation, and complete thorough training for each and every one of the machines involved with your work on election day. The process sounds straightforward enough, however depending on where you apply, you may face difficulties applying in time for elections. These problems can be very discouraging to citizens new to the process and could cause a lower volunteer turnout over time.
Personal Experiences as a Poll Worker
I volunteered in the November 8th, 2022 midterm election in Gwinnett County, Georgia. I was happy to hear that almost every country was at max capacity for poll worker volunteers, but I began to notice problems as soon as I applied. The county I applied for made me jump through hoops to finish all of the paperwork and submit all of the required documentation in time, and even then, they nearly forgot about my application. By the time the day of the election came forward I was completely ready and trained, although I was the youngest worker by about ten years. I was very fortunate to not see any arguments among the voters. I almost wondered why there ever could be a shortage for the position until I noticed how slow the polls became by about noon. I then realized the demanding challenges faced by those volunteering and the deterring factors thereof, like standing around at a station without much of anything to occupy yourself with. Poll work, while it is not meant to be entertaining, lacks really any engaging work during the times of day when the polls are slow, which detracts from the experience and made me see the possibility of certain areas in the US eventually lacking the necessary number of workers in the next couple of decades.
What Should We Do to Keep the Wheels Turning?
It is already evident that poll workers face challenges, not only working election day but applying as well, so what could we do to improve this? Educating the public through flyers and other forms of media is always the first step as many young adults are not familiar with how our elections work. This would help citizens see the benefits of serving the community on election day. Furthermore, streamlining the process by creating a step-by-step guide for applicants would be a great way to reduce confusion about what applicants think they must do in order to properly submit their applications. Lastly, the arrangement for easy access to apply online would give a greater range to applicants who have a harder time moving to and from government offices or lack self-transportation.
Overall, poll working is essential for simplifying and streamlining our elections for the masses. We should be thankful that many go out year after year to serve in our elections, otherwise we could face problems no one has seen coming. That is why it is incredibly important to help out your community by helping everyone cast their ballot, especially when you know you can help out.