Why Everyone Should Work as a Poll Worker
Abigail St. Jean
There was a greater need for poll workers this year due to the pandemic. Since most poll workers are older, they are at a greater risk for the novel coronavirus. They need young volunteers who are interested in learning about the polls and elections.
Fairfax County had a program where high school students can take a one hour online training course to prepare for the polls. The training covers election procedures, voting systems and assisting people with disabilities. It covers all of the duties that a student election page can complete. After finishing the training, one must pass a 20 question multiple choice test with at least an 80% for the application to be considered.
Although adult election officials in Fairfax County must work a 15 hour day, when you work as a student page you only have to work an 8 hour shift. You can choose to either help open the polls or close them. I was assigned to work at the polling station in Green Spring Gardens, located near Braddock and Little River Turnpike, from 12:30pm to 8:30pm.
All of the other poll workers were very helpful in teaching me about the duties they fulfilled on their shifts and were excited that it was my first time as a poll worker. During the day, I helped by welcoming people to the polls and directing them where to sign in, completing the line length survey, and counting unmarked ballots.
The location had a trickle of voters coming in all day, but according to the Chief Election Officer, the crowds were much larger that morning. Sixty percent of the registered voters in the precinct had either voted early or requested a mail-in ballot. The slow day actually ended up being helpful because we were able to keep everything clean and safe for the voters that did show up.
Despite the fact that this election was so polarizing, it was our job as poll workers to remain impartial and to not talk about the candidates. Another one of my duties was to measure 40ft from the entrance to the polling location to make sure people were not campaigning too close. Although it was strange, it was a nice break from the current stressful political climate.
This experience has definitely made me more likely to become a poll worker again. As a student election page, my duties were limited, but when I turn 18, I can help pass out ballots and check people into the polls. I can also work as a Poll Watcher who acts as a watchdog for the poll workers and makes sure that everyone knows their rights to vote.
Working as a student election page gave me a greater insight into how our democracy works. I was able to learn a lot by observing and it was cool to get to help people cast their votes. It also made me more empathetic to the poll workers and vote counters in the states we were waiting on results from. The poll workers had a lot of respect and pride for their role in the election and it felt good to channel my energy into doing something to help the election, instead of standing idly by.