On Election Day, Manning the Polls is a Team Sport

Reporting by Luke LeSourd and Rachel Southmayd

With 37 different precincts (or voting zones) and more than 90,000 registered voters, Election Day is a busy one in Alamance County.

But it isn’t just employees of the Board of Elections that make the day run smoothly, it’s the hundreds of poll workers who spend a few hours or maybe even the entire day assisting voters who show up to churches and schools across the county, ready to cast their ballot.

In the town of Elon, the First Baptist Church was having a relatively slow morning after an early rush when the polls first opened at 7:30 a.m. Don Burton, a chief judge worker at the polling site, said they had 10 machines operating and 15 workers. In a non-presidential election, Burton says the spot would have far fewer people and only three or four machines.

“On a major election like this, we have to have more,” he said.

Burton said there are four categories for poll workers: chief judges, judges, machine workers and booker workers.

A representative from the Alamance County Board of elections, who declined to give her name, said there are at least three judges at every polling location, but the number could be higher depending on the size of the polling place.

Two Elon University students enter the polling station at the First Baptist Church of Elon College. Beyond these doors waited 15 polling workers ready to help voters cast their ballot on Election Day. Photo by Rachel Southmayd.

Burton said the only qualifications for working at a polling place were attention to detail and being over the age of 18.

“It takes wanting to be precise in what you do,” he said. “You can’t really do it without proper training.”

The Board of Elections representative was quick to point out that these poll workers are not volunteers; they are hourly employees on Election Day. “Assistants,” she said, get paid $8 an hour, while judges make “more than that.”

Burton also said he worked at an early voting site in Burlington, where they saw 700-800 voters each day.

“It’s a pretty intense year this year,” he said.

Jim Chanas is a resident of Elon and worked for the polls. He was at the First Baptist Church from six in the morning and expected to stay until at least 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. While many workers have jobs like checking voter registration and putting the electronic cards inside the voting machines to record a person’s ballot, Jim Chanas was in charge of any voters who come who are handicapped. He will bring a paper ballot directly to their vehicle.

When asked why he decided to work at the polls, Jim Chanas said he considered being part of the democratic process his civic duty.

“I just thought it would be a good idea because I am retired so I can spare the time,” he said.

First time voters and Elon University students Mackenzie Meyer and Taylor Pewitt said the poll workers were very helpful in the voting process.

“We didn’t know how to do anything,” said Meyer. “It was our first time.”

To see a breakdown of the registered voters in the precinct where the First Baptist Church of Elon is located, click here.

The Board of Elections representative said it isn’t hard to find people to staff the polls but that certain steps are taken in the recruitment process to weed out those who may want to commit voter fraud or tamper with votes.

 

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