For the 2020 general election, I felt like I needed to do more than just vote, so I looked into becoming a poll worker. I figured since most of those volunteers were older, they might not be able to help this year because of the pandemic. Well they needed help and I was accepted as a poll manager for my local precinct!
In Charleston County, you have to first fill out an application. Once you’re approved, then there is training to complete ahead of the election. There was Covid-19 training and general training (which took 2-3 hours to complete), each with their own tests. Then A few days before, we also had some training for the new check in kiosks we would be using instead of the laptops the training mentioned.
On Election Day, I shared my experience and answered questions on my Instagram stories, so here are some of the most frequently asked questions:
How long is the day?
We had to get there an hour before the polls opened, at 6am. This gave us an hour to get all of the machines, tables, etc setup. The polls are then open from 7am-7pm. If you’re in line at 7pm, you get to vote, so the workers are there until every voter votes, then they break down and clean up.
I was lucky enough to leave 10 minutes before the polls closed so I could make it home in time for lil man’s bedtime. I helped start the clean up where we could and was thankful for the others in letting me get a few minutes of baby snuggles that night.
What do you do during the day?
The goal is for everyone to do every position so you rotate throughout the day. That wasn’t exactly the case, but throughout the day I troubleshooted the broken kiosk (that I started on at check in), then eventually setup the new one when we got a replacement, checked voters in & gave them ballots, welcomed them, sanitized all the machines, manned the curbside voting area / pointed voters in the right place outside.
I didn’t help at the resolution table (but had to send a few people there, haha), by the ballot marking machines or the scanner. All of the workers were really nice and happy to rotate around when people wanted to try something new or move around.
Do you get paid?
Actually yes! I thought it was a volunteer position, but turns out you get a small amount for your time.
Are you fed?
Technically, no. I packed a small cooler with a lunch, snacks and drink plus a big water bottle. Hunter ended up bringing me Chickfila though. Verde brought a bunch of wraps for the workers and Dominos also delivered a lot of pizzas that we snacked on in the afternoon. I’d plan for no food, but be happy if you got some.
Were there any issues?
Honestly, no – Nothing big. The location I was at was one of the 4 places available for early voting in Charleston county, so the biggest issue we had was that people came there to vote and we had to send them to their regular voting precinct. Most understood when we told them they needed to go to their precinct to vote, but a few seemed annoyed. No tempers were lost, so that seemed like a pretty good day.
A cool feature of the check in app we had was that if a voter was identified at being at the wrong precinct, we could send them a text with the name and address of their precinct. This helped quite a few people who weren’t familiar with where they should be going.
Would you do it again?
100% yes. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at elections and seeing what it takes to execute. Like I mentioned, all of the workers were extremely friendly and it was fun talking to everyone and hearing their backgrounds, etc. Voters were all upbeat and excited (especially those first time ones), so the atmosphere was fun.
It was a long day, but totally worth it.
You usually don’t see younger poll managers, so I wanted to share my experience in hopes that others in our generation will sign up for a future election!
Want to get involved? Check out your county’s voter registration website! If you’re in Charleston county, you can get all the information you need and apply here.