How to Work in an Election as a Pollworker or Volunteer

U.S. voting and elections are important events, both on a national and state level, at a time when citizens gather to cast their ballots. The right to vote is a responsibility and commitment that many citizens take seriously, as it helps determine the future of the country or state on a multitude of levels.

Since Election Days can call for mass crowds, many states have enabled early voting in an attempt to reduce waiting times and large numbers of voters. However, no election would be possible without the help and dedication of pollworkers and volunteers.

The steps to become a pollworker are straightforward, as long as you meet certain requirements and possess the right set of skills necessary to handle the potentially chaotic environment of polling sites. Polling volunteers must not only be outgoing and focused individuals, but they must also enjoy serving the public and be unafraid to work under pressure.

To ensure a smooth voting process, electoral boards across the country strive to employ the best and most qualified volunteers, as well as pollworkers, to provide adequate training.  If you are considering becoming a volunteer or pollworker for an election period in your city or county, make sure to review the sections below:

  • Eligibility requirements for volunteers and pollworkers
  • How to apply to become a pollworker or volunteer
  • Pollworker and volunteer responsibilities on Election Day
  • Volunteer organizations
  • Tips for pollworkers and volunteers
  • Why pollworkers and volunteers are important for the electoral process

Eligibility Requirements for Volunteers and Pollworkers

Pollworkers and volunteers are an integral part of every election on a local, state or country level. Their assistance and commitment is crucial to ensuring any given Election Day goes as planned without incident.

Electoral boards are often given the task of selecting volunteers, and they must do so carefully. Making the right choice is a key facet to garnering qualified workers for the job. Thus, if you would like to be a pollworker or volunteer on Election Day, you must meet the following set of eligibility requirements, prior to being considered for the role:

  • Be at least 18 years of age (or 16 if you would like to volunteer in a student program)
  • Be a United States citizen or a permanent resident
  • Be a registered voter in your state
  • Have strong English language skills (speaking, reading and writing)
  • Have strong clerical skills (for elector positions)
  • Not be a candidate for office at the polling site

In some precincts, where the population is bilingual, states are required to hire bilingual volunteers who speak fluent English and an additional language.  

Note: Registered sex offenders or individuals who are on parole for felony convictions cannot apply to become a volunteer or pollworker. 

How to Apply to Become a Pollworker or Volunteer

Election pollworkers and volunteers often have the opportunity to participate in an important political event in their state or country. Therefore, once you have met all of the requirements to become a volunteer or pollworker, your next step will entail applying for the position.

Typically, each state and county has its own set of criteria and application procedures. However, in general, both volunteers and pollworkers are expected to be available during the entire Election Day, until voting is closed. When filling out a standard application at a county election office, you may be asked to enter the following information about yourself:  

  • Your full name
  • Your residential address 
  • Your phone number (home, work or personal)
  • Your email address
  • The last four digits of your Social Security Number (this will be used to verify that you are registered to vote in your state)
  • Your affiliation to any political parties (if applicable)
  • Fluency in any additional languages besides English
  • Confirmation that you do not hold elected office under the U.S. government
  • Any other information you may deem useful or important

Once you submit your application, it will be thoroughly reviewed by the proper parties. If you are deemed eligible to be a volunteer or a pollworker, you can then expect to receive an email stating the details about an appointment you must attend with the Electoral Board. 

Pollworker and Volunteer Responsibilities on Election Day

Volunteering on Election Day allows both volunteers and pollworkers to serve the public good in the best way possible, as well as ensure no incidents or mistakes occur throughout the day. Pollworkers and volunteers are usually assigned a large variety of tasks, including the following:

  • Setting up polls and precincts for the election.
  • Helping voters sign in and check off their names off the precinct lists.
  • Providing assistance where needed, especially in using of voting machines.
  • Monitoring voting equipment and noting any irregularities.
  • Gathering the results when polls are closed.
  • Packing voting supplies and cleaning up the voting site.

In order to be prepared for Election Day, volunteers and pollworkers must be able to complete certain tasks with ease. For example, a key part of the process is gathering all necessary supplies for Election Day, and making sure that nothing is left behind.

Additionally, volunteers and pollworkers must be on the election site at least an hour or two in advance, before the voting begins. Take some considerable time to review the Election Guide in order to familiarize yourself with everything you need to know. 

Both volunteers and coworkers usually receive a stipend for their hard work and contribution to the electoral process. For example, an election officer will receive a stipend of around $175 for each day he or she volunteered.

Chief election officers are paid around $230 on average, while their assistants are paid approximately $200. These rates are a rough estimation, and may be lower or higher depending on your state or county regulations.

Note: All pollworkers are instructed to undergo a specialized training program prior to elections, which is often provided by the county.

Volunteer Organizations

Pollworkers and volunteers can sign up to work on Election Day or throughout the election period with their local election officials. However, many organizations throughout the United States are gathering volunteers to be active participants in the electoral process and pre-train them for the job. One such organization is the Youth Service America and their ServiceVote Program.

The YSA’s ServiceVote Program is an initiative group aiming to engage America’s youth in the electoral process through volunteering and connecting with voters, candidates and peers. The program accepts young individuals 5 to 25 years of age and prepares them for participation in the elections by teaching them how to serve, help them learn about political and governmental systems of the country, raise awareness about the importance of voting and engage other citizens in the electoral process. The program offers volunteers several ways to get involved as well, including educational opportunities related to the elections.

Tips for Pollworkers or Volunteers

Pollworkers and volunteers who would like to serve as election officials on Election Day must receive proper training before the electoral process takes place. They must be prepared to handle the dynamics of the electoral process and the fast-paced environment of the actual Election Day. To ensure fair elections that follow state and electoral regulations, pollworkers and volunteers should take into consideration the following tips:

  • Gather all information and operations calendar beforehand to successfully manage the Elections Day.
  • Be at the polling place a couple of hours before opening to prepare yourself.
  • Make sure you have the necessary materials on you.
  • Wear comfortable clothing, as working hours on Elections Day are long.
  • Provide assistance to voters by helping them with their ballots or other issues.
  • Have a backup emergency plan if the Election Day does not go as planned.
  • Take notes of all voter intimidation instances or voter complaints and forward them to the appropriate authorities.
  • Maintain a friendly, positive attitude and always be prepared to help.

Why Pollworkers and Volunteers Are Important for the Electoral Process

Any successful political campaign in the U.S. would be incomplete without the help and dedication of volunteers and pollworkers who work hard to provide assistance wherever and whenever needed. Besides working on Election Day, these individuals are also active before the elections, supporting political candidates and attending events.

Volunteers and pollworkers are therefore vital for the promotion and success of a candidate in a particular area or state. Many celebrities in the United States also show open support for their chosen political candidates by endorsing them, helping mobilize the voting public, as well as making speeches on behalf of candidates. 

Volunteers and pollworkers are considered the driving force behind the elections and voting process on Election Day, helping voters exercise their right in a quick and easy manner. This includes setting up the voting site, counting the votes and cleaning up the station when voting is closed.

A good pollworker will make sure that voters perform their duties peacefully and with no incidents, and that all voters are paid the same amount of attention and given the appropriate assistance. Finally, for many U.S. citizens, being a volunteer or a pollworker in the electoral process is a patriotic and civic duty.