Be an Iowa Guardian of Democracy

6 mins read

What’s the difference between Poll Worker & Poll Watcher?

Poll Worker:
Nonpartisan, Paid (Clerks, Judges, Inspectors, Checker, Precinct Worker)

Poll Watcher:
Partisan, Volunteer (Observers, Monitors, Challengers)



To be a poll worker (precinct worker) You must be 18+, registered to vote in county, party affiliated, a resident of the country, complete required training, term of approximately 2 years. To sign up, contact your County Auditor Office/Commissioner of Elections here.


Election officials must be members of one of the 2 political parties whose candidates for president of the U.S. or for governor received the largest & next-largest number of votes in the precinct at last general election. County chairs of each political party designate names for appointment to the election board 30+ days prior to each primary election and, 20+ days before the primary, the commissioner appoints the election board from those lists.

  • Contact County Auditor/Elections Commissioner here.
  • List here.

Approx DEADLINE to sign up to be a Poll Worker

May 3, 2020


Poll watchers may be appointed by the following: political party executive or central committees; non-party political organizations (NPPOs); candidates who are “Nominated by Petition,” and groups opposing or supporting public measures on the ballot. Poll watchers may also be called challenging committees or observers.

Poll watchers acting as challengers, must be registered voters in county where challenge occurs. While polls are open on election day, there is a limit to the number of poll watchers that can be in a polling place: 3 appointed by each political party that has a candidate on the ballot; 1 appointed by each NPPO that has a candidate on the ballot; 1 appointed by each candidate nominated by petition, and 3 for public measures on the ballot (except for primary and general elections). The following persons shall be permitted to be present at and in the immediate vicinity of polling places, provided they do not solicit votes: a person who is by law authorized to perform or is charged with the performance of official duties at the election; any number of persons, not exceeding 3 at a time from each political party having candidates to be voted for at such election, to act as challenging committees, who are appointed & accredited by executive or central committee of such political party; any number of persons not exceeding 3 at a time from each of such political parties, appointed & accredited and any number of persons not exceeding 3 at a time appointed as observers, to witness the counting of ballots; any peace officer assigned or called upon to keep order or maintain compliance, upon request of commissioner or of chairperson of precinct election board; 1 observer at a time representing any nonparty political organization, any candidate nominated by petition, or any other nonpartisan candidate in a city or school election, appearing on ballot of election in progress. Candidates who send observers to polls shall provide each with a letter of appointment in form prescribed by state commissioner; any persons expressing an interest in a ballot issue to be voted upon at an election except a general or primary election. Any such person shall file a notice of intent to serve as an observer with commissioner before election day. If more than 3 persons file a notice of intent to serve at the same time with respect to ballot issues at an election, commissioner shall appoint from those submitting a notice of intent the 3 persons who may serve at that time as observers, and shall provide a schedule to all persons who filed notices of intent. The appointees shall include both opponents & proponents of ballot issues; any person authorized by the commissioner, in consultation with secretary of state, for purposes of conducting & attending educational voting programs for youth; reporters, photographers & other staff representing the news media. 

Who is Authorized to Challenge a Voter’s Eligibility on Election Day?

Any person offering to vote may be challenged as unqualified by any precinct election official or registered voter. It is the duty of each official to challenge any person offering to vote whom the official knows or suspects is not duly qualified.

Resources for Iowa:

  • Retweetable Tweet with links for Iowa here.
  • Shareable FB post & downloadable graphic here.
  • GoogleDoc here.

POLL WORKER (and Poll Watcher) Requirements & links to sign-up in All 50 States, STATE BY STATE Including:

  • Who is Authorised to Challenge a Voter’s Eligibility on Election Day? 
  • & Links to retweetable TWEETS & shareable FB Posts for each State
  • Twitter THREAD with links here.
  • Facebook shareable Album with downloadable graphics here.
  • On the Postcards for America website here.
  • On the Unhack the Vote Website here.

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Postcards for America gives you PC2As (Postcarders Calls to Action) on key bills, topics and issues so you have all the info you need to write your Reps about your concerns.
Addresses, background information and even Suggested Wording provided.

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