Support Democracy: Power the Polls on Election Day

12 mins read

Support Democracy: Power the Polls on Election Day

Democracy isn’t a spectator sport. Help staff your local polling place as a poll worker.

Our democracy depends on ordinary people who make sure every election runs smoothly and everyone’s vote is counted. Make sure we have safe, fair, and efficient elections for all. Step up to be a poll worker with Power The Polls.

Power the Polls collects data from over 5,000 jurisdictions assembled by the non-partisan Fair Elections Center including information on poll worker compensation, hours, application links, and training and voter registration requirements. See what you can do to help here.

Poll workers ensure safe, fair, and efficient elections

America needs more poll workers to ensure a safe and fair election. Power the Polls is designed to address that need — and is continuing the work it started in 2020 — to recruit a new wave of younger, more diverse poll workers who can help protect fair access to the ballot box now and in the future. Power the Polls is a first-of-its-kind, nonpartisan initiative for recruiting poll workers.

Poll workers help check in voters, manage voter lines, troubleshoot equipment, and provide directions and assistance. Poll worker shortages have already affected voters in 2022 as polling places in some states across the country have closed due to shortages during primary elections. When polling places close, it becomes more difficult for voters to access the ballot box. Power the Polls helps recruit a new generation of poll workers who can ensure safe and fair access to the ballot box in 2022 and in elections to come.

Poll worker requirements

  • WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BEING A POLL WORKER? Qualifications vary by jurisdictions. Most states require poll workers to be registered to vote in the state or their local jurisdiction. Some local elections offices have student poll worker programs for younger people who aren’t yet eligible to vote but would like to play an important part of the democratic process.
  • CAN I BE A POLL WORKER IN A STATE I DON’T LIVE IN/AM NOT REGISTERED IN? Individuals are generally only allowed to serve in the state where they reside though there may be exceptions to this in select jurisdictions.
  • I’M NOT A U.S. CITIZEN / I’M A PERMANENT RESIDENT. CAN I SERVE AS A POLL WORKER? Most states require that poll workers are U.S. citizens. The best place to find guidance is with your local administrator.
  • I’M UNDER 18. CAN I STILL HELP? Many states allow individuals under 18 to be poll workers, but each state has its own requirements, and this can vary between different cities and counties. Some states also have additional requirements for students like permission slips, a certain GPA, etc. The best place to find this information is by reaching out to your local election administrator.
  • DO I HAVE TO WORK THE FULL DAY, OR CAN I SIGN UP FOR A SHIFT? Some jurisdictions allow workers to sign up for shifts, while others require you to work full days. Hours also often vary for early voting work versus Election Day. If you’re concerned about the hours, you should submit your application and let your election officials know about your availability. If your jurisdiction requires a full day of work and you can’t make those hours but still want to help, think about recruiting other people you know to be a poll worker and can serve for the full time needed.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is a POLL WORKER the same as a POLL WATCHER? No, these are different roles. Poll workers work for election administrators to help administer the election. They do things like check in voters, fix voting machines, and troubleshoot any other issues at polling sites. Poll watchers, which are sometimes also known as poll observers and poll monitors, are volunteers or staff from a political party or campaign that are certified to observe and monitor election administration. In most states, only political parties, candidates and ballot issue committees can appoint poll watchers. Organizations and civic groups can also appoint poll watchers in some states.
  • Are poll workers paid? Local jurisdictions will often pay poll workers a stipend for their participation. In most cases, you will be paid with a check for a day’s worth of work. In some cases, poll working may be voluntary and not paid. You can find out more about pay in your jurisdiction by reaching out directly to the local elections office.
  • Do poll workers need training? Local jurisdictions often host mandatory trainings, and provide poll workers with all the necessary information and skills they need prior to Election Day.
  • Does it matter if I’m a Republican, Democrat or Independent? Poll working is usually a non-partisan activity and your party affiliation does not matter, but in some states poll workers are matched to locations in pairs based on their party registration. This is sometimes done to ensure party balance among poll workers at every polling location. Applications in some jurisdictions may ask you for party registration information for this purpose.

Fair Elections Center

Fair Elections Center is a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C. It uses litigation and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities, and to improve election administration. Fair Elections Center:

  • Produces state voter guides, reports, talking points and fact sheets
  • Provides testimony to legislatures
  • Conducts trainings and seminars for organizations and their supporters
  • Litigates voting rights cases in state and federal court
  • Works directly with local election officials and Secretaries of State to ensure that the right to vote is protected and expanded
  • Provides election law expertise to state-based civic engagement coalitions
  • Helps organizations with accessing the ballot as they plan their programs or need help engaging elections officials

Donate to Fair elections center

Campus Vote Project

Campus Vote Project (a project of Fair Elections Center) works with universities, community colleges, faculty, students and election officials to reduce barriers to student voting. It helps campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.

Historically, young adults have voted at lower rates than older cohorts.  They are also the newest members of our democracy, move more frequentlyare less likely to have a driver’s license, and are less likely to be contacted directly by political campaigns then older age groups, all of which are barriers to registering and voting. Community college students are especially important. They typically go to school in the communities where they and their family live, they can directly share registration and voting information with their larger community.

  • 10.3 million students attend community college in the U.S. (representing 39% of all U.S. undergrads).
  • Among undergraduates, 50% of Hispanic students, 40% of African-American students, and 36% of Asian/Pacific Islander students attend community colleges.
  • 36% of students entering community colleges are first-generation college students

Work Elections

Work Elections (a project for Fair Elections Center) seeks to improve election administration by broadening and diversifying the country’s pool of poll workers. It aims to strengthen the U.S. election infrastructure across to keep pace with emerging technologies and the changing needs of an increasingly diverse electorate. Many local election officials struggle to recruit the hundreds of thousands of poll workers needed nationwide on Election Day. offers a solution to one of the main challenges to poll worker recruitment: a lack of accessible, centralized information for the general public.

Recruiting younger Americans as poll workers can help ensure that the adoption of new technology does not undermine the efficiency of casting a ballot and that there is a larger pool of bilingual poll workers to provide voters who are limited-English speakers with the assistance they need. Their portal collects poll worker requirements and applications for nearly every state (except Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington – states that conduct all-mail balloting and therefore don’t require many poll workers).

TakeAway: Help ensure fair elections: be a poll worker.



Recent Articles:

The American Freedom Agenda Can Save the Democratic Party
The dog ate my Jan 6th texts
Republicans ambush veterans’ benefits: Mapping the casualties
16 best free graphics apps for activists
Fossil fuel profiteers deny climate change

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive campaigns and organizations at the national, state, and local levels.

Our focus is on long term, sustainable and affordable solutions. An approach that is longer than an election cycle, and isn’t purely dependant on volunteers, can enable more qualified candidates to run for office and for more issue groups to bring about positive social change.

Democracy Labs is a project of the Tides Advocacy Fund.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Story

Democratic Messages to Amplify with Friends and Family

Next Story

Pints & Progress is coming to West Sacramento!

Latest from 2022