by John Oates
One of the most interesting experiences I have had as a political science student has been as a poll worker. If you are like me you may be interested in elections, how they work, and how they are secured. These three factors led me to explore working the polls. I began by contacting Athens Clarke County’s Board of Elections in search of information and employment. After a brief background check and a few hours of training, I was set to work my first election.
My first was the SPLOST election in November 2019. It was an election with a single item on the ballot, and, as you could expect, it had a low turnout. However, this was a wonderful experience as I was glad to help people vote and help them become better educated on how the whole process works. I signed on for more elections after that.
Since then, I have worked the Georgia Primary, the Presidential election, and the recent Senate runoffs. It took a good bit of training for me to get used to the new voting systems our state adopted just before the primary. Those elections ran smoothly, although, due to COVID, we had much lower turnout in person than in my first election. These elections keep providing me with new experiences, each time is different.
Duties of a poll worker include setting up the polls before they open and then packing them up after the polls close. There is quite a bit of human interaction, and the job is, in a way, like customer service. It can seem like a long workday, but the constant stream of voters helps keep you busy.
As a SPIA student, poll work will sadly not qualify for any experiential credits because of the lack of hours. However, the few hours you do work are for the occasional training and election days, allowing for you to fit this easily around your schoolwork and internships. It also pays much better than minimum wage. Poll working is an opportunity to perform a civic duty while helping others engage their civic duties. It also a chance for you to see how elections are run at the ground level.