When you think about voting, who do you picture at the polls, helping to check you in, hand you a ballot, and give you a “I Voted” sticker on the way out? Probably a retiree, right? That’s because historically, election volunteers have been mostly older or retired people who had free time and could stay at a polling location all day.
But that is precisely the group of people most at risk of contracting a serious case of COVID-19 if exposed. And there are also a lot of other tasks that need to be done on election day — or election days as early voting has been extended.
Could you be an election worker?
There is a lot at stake with this election for LGBTQ equality. This would be a good year for more LGBTQ folks to get involved. If you are in good health, not immune-compromised, or with an underlying health condition that would put you at more risk during the pandemic, you might consider serving this election cycle. People who are 18 years or older and registered to vote in same county where they would work can apply. (You are registered to vote, aren’t you?) And the good news is that because election officials are expecting a large turnout this year, you’ll probably get hired! You’d earn at least federal minimum wage, but many counties are paying up to $14 an hour depending on what role you serve.
There are a few exceptions. Elected officials, candidates, their employees and family are not allowed to work in an election. And some high school students can participate as clerks at polling stations if they are 16 or older as part of the Student Election Clerk program.
What exactly does an election worker do?
The days can be long…up to 14 hours on some days. The polling stations have to be set up in the morning and secured each night after the polls close. Some staff assign voters with equipment and some check IDs as people show up to vote or to turn in their absentee or mail-in ballots. Some staff process ballots and paperwork. Others are there to answer questions from voters (this is a great role for bilingual folks because you can help serve as translators, too). Still other staff drive from polling location to location to help deliver or redistribute materials if one place experiences higher numbers of voters.
Want to apply?
Elections administrators won’t know exactly how many poll workers they will need or in what roles, but don’t let that stop you from applying. Some counties expect to need double their normal staff, and that will require not just adding those numbers but finding people to fill the spots of former staff who can’t return because of the coronavirus risk. You’ll be trained for whatever role they need filled before early voting starts on October 13th.
Visit the Help America Vote website and use their handy tool to find your county’s election official contact information, work hours, hourly wages, and to apply.
Poll workers play a crucial role in our election process. We can’t have a free and fair election without enough employees staffing polling locations and assisting voters. As a poll worker, you can help America vote.