On Tuesday, we the people — at least those of us who didn’t vote early — will descend on our designated polling stations and cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
After that, you might go home or head back to work. You might anxiously monitor the election coverage or initiate a news blackout until the final count is in. Either way, it’s over for you.
For the individuals working the polls on Election Day, it’s a different story.
In the 2012 presidential election, I worked as an election officer in Williamsburg, Virginia.
I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary at the time. Despite not being terribly political, I had become involved in a campus group that focused on voter outreach amongst students. As a result, I was included on an email blast asking for volunteer election officers.
I signed up because I thought it sounded fun (and because I heard that polling officers received a cool pin).
Here’s what it was like to work as a poll officer:
You have to show up really early
Times may vary among precincts, but we had to be there at 5 a.m. sharp. I set my alarm for 4 a.m., got dressed (business casual, as required), and headed over to my station. It was very cold outside, and the town was completely dark except for our brightly lit 24/7 Wawa.
You might not be able to vote
I worked at a polling station across town from my designated precinct, so I had to submit an absentee ballot ahead of time.
You get paid
I received $100 for my work on Election Day, along with a $25 bonus for attending a training session. We also got free sandwiches, chips, cookies, and drinks for lunch and dinner.
The job is pretty easy
At certain points, the crowd would surge a bit, but it usually wasn’t too overwhelming. For the most part, I just checked photo IDs and made sure the information matched the names on our poll book. It’s pretty simple stuff, but it was always stressful to have to tell people they were in the wrong precinct. In one case, I had to turn away a high-ranking college official, which was pretty awkward.
You can’t talk politics
This one makes sense. Poll officers aren’t permitted to talk politics during Election Day. You’re not supposed to bring any political reading material, either.
You’re there all day
In Williamsburg, the polls shut down at 7 p.m. Everyone waiting in line at that point got to come in and vote. Afterward, we had to pack up the equipment (I wasn’t involved with the counting process). You can’t leave until everything’s done. We finally got out of there around 10 p.m.
You get a free pin
It’s pretty awesome.
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