On November 6, 2018, I served as a poll worker for precinct 9231 in San Francisco. I was an inspector, meaning I was responsible for ensuring the polling place is continually operating according to procedures.
What is involved to serve?
- Visit the Department of Elections at City Hall during open hours
- Take a quiz and pass an interview
- Attend a 1–3 hour training session prior to election day depending on role and prior experience
What do poll workers do?
We are the point persons for voters voting in person on election day. Our mission is to:
- Protect voter rights
- Serve voters with respect
- Offer assistance
This is what our day looks like:
- 5:00 am – Wake up.
- 6:00 am – Arrive at polling place. Set up all of the equipment.
- 7:00 am – Open the polls.
We want everyone to vote. For the next 11 hours, we do our best to help everyone vote. This includes offering accessible voting, language assistance, provisional ballots, correcting voter registration information, instructions for last-minute voter registrations. For one voter that could not leave their home, we even sent a staff member to deliver a provisional ballot.
We ensure votes are fair. Lost your mail-in ballots? We can’t verify your registration information? We will offer you to the option to vote provisionally. This means there there is an extra step to ensure that you are eligible to vote before your vote is counted. This procedure is to ensure that everyone votes fairly.
- 8:00 pm – Close the polls. Anyone that is in line at 8pm is ensured a vote.
We report on the results from electronic records for the precinct. We sort the provisional and drop-off ballots for pickup and processing. We pack up all the equipment to be stored until the next election.
The polls are understaffed. Officially, our day was supposed to end at 10pm. However, because there were not enough volunteers, the ballots for our precinct was not picked up until 11pm.
For the next election, consider volunteering! The procedures get more and more complex each year, so until technology is built to alleviate cognitive overhead, poll workers are critical for making sure election day happens.