Every year, millions of Americans travel to their local polling places to cast their ballots. Though voting methods in the past few years have trended toward mail-in or absentee ballots, voting in person at the polls remains the most popular voting method.
According to the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS) report released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) more than 200,000 polling places were opened and staffed by more than 600,000 poll workers in 2018. Most of these poll workers are part-time, temporary employees hired by local election officials to staff polling places during early voting and on Election Day. Polling places average about eight on-staff workers for the whole day.
A poll worker’s job begins even before Election Day, as many states require workers to attend a training prior to staffing. Additionally, sometimes poll workers must work at the polling place the night before or the morning of Election Day to set up all the voting equipment. Once voters arrive, a poll worker’s tasks can include checking voter IDs, distributing ballots, helping elderly and disabled citizens vote, updating voter registration information and maintaining a safe and orderly polling place. Once the last voter has cast his or her ballot, workers must make sure every paper ballot that was distributed is accounted for, and sometimes they are required to count the ballots as well.
Because poll workers are hired by local officials, requirements for the job can vary county to county and state to state. Even the official name given to a poll worker varies. They may be called election clerks, election judges, inspectors or commissioners.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about poll workers and their job requirements with answers from the 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.
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