Three types of workers are involved in elections: Election officials, poll workers and poll watchers.
Election officials are the election professionals. They are elected, appointed, or hired to work year-round to conduct elections – though many have additional duties as well. Election officials maintain voter rolls, prepare training materials, secure voting equipment, recruit poll workers – everything necessary to prepare for elections. Top election officials may have titles like deputy secretary of state, county clerk or elections director.
For more information on election administration structures, see NCSL’s page on Election Administration at State and Local Levels.
Poll workers are the temporary staff brought on to do the hands-on work for every election. They include greeters at polling places, ballot counters, foreign language interpreters, warehouse workers, supervisors and many more specialized jobs. Poll workers are the essential staff; in some places poll workers make up 70% of election office budgets.
For more information on poll workers, see NCSL’s page on Election Poll Workers.
Poll watchers are citizens appointed by political parties (and occasionally other institutions) to observe an election. Poll watchers observe the performance of election procedures and ensure the election is administered properly in their assigned location. Depending on state law, poll watchers can be present in polling places, counting centers and any other election location, so long as voter privacy is maintained. Though this page does not discuss poll watchers further, it is important to distinguish them from poll workers.
For more information on poll watchers, see NCSL’s webpage on Poll Watchers and Challengers.