Why You Should Support Employees Who Volunteer as Poll Workers
With Election Day drawing near, we are seeing cities and counties across the country actively recruiting poll workers. These volunteers (who are sometimes paid for their work) show up to their assigned polling location to execute various tasks that make the process go as quickly and smoothly as possible for voters. Poll workers stay busy through their location’s voting hours, usually arriving as early as 5 a.m. and staying until 9 p.m. to ensure everything is in order.
It’s vital that we have enough poll workers across the country. Jane Slusser, who works for Power the Polls, said, “We’re seeing already in the early primaries that there have been places that polling locations have been closed due to poll worker shortages, or there’s been the threat of closing polling locations.”
Without enough polling locations staffed and prepared for election day, it becomes increasingly difficult for voters to have an accessible place to vote. As American Progress points out, “all of this can lead to disenfranchisement and reduced trust in elections, especially among communities of color and other marginalized communities facing entrenched barriers to voting.”
While poll workers most often volunteer during elections on Saturdays, they are also needed every other year on Election Day, which falls on a Tuesday. Unfortunately, it is difficult for poll workers who are also employed to volunteer at these elections, which are likely the most important ones to have staffed. Knowing this, we see a need for businesses to step up and form policies that support employees who volunteer as poll workers.
How Businesses Can Support Employees Who Vote
Voting is a fundamental right that should not be taken lightly. Organizations with a set of values they follow, want their employees to feel supported in their professional and personal lives, and want to positively impact their community should start by supporting their employees’ rights to vote. There are several ways to do so, including these:
- Give your employees the flexibility to vote, even during work hours.
- Ask your employees to move any meetings on Election Day to make it easier for everyone to get to the polls.
- Remind your employees about Election Day ahead of time, and share any helpful information, like poll hours.
- Lead by doing. Leadership should communicate that they encourage their workers to vote and should also take the initiative to cast their ballot.
How Businesses Can Support Employees Who Volunteer as Poll Workers
Businesses that are looking to support employees who volunteer as poll workers can do so in several ways:
- Look into how your state handles poll workers’ hours on Election Day, and communicate this to your staff ahead of time. Some regions require employers to give a paid day off.
- Communicate any policies your business has regarding poll workers ahead of Election Day. Letting them know their options will help them make an informed decision on whether they can work the polls.
- Give clear instructions on how employees may confirm their poll worker status with the company.
How to Become a Poll Worker
Are you interested in becoming a poll worker? The first step is to look into how to sign up to be a poll worker in your area. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission and Power the Polls are great resources for more information and connecting you with your local polling office.
When you start the process of becoming a poll worker, remember that:
- Your city or county may only need a few poll workers, and they may add you to a list of volunteers to reach out to in the future.
- You will be required to complete a set of courses, likely online, and pass a test to earn your certificate.
- Poll workers must be present through the voting hours, which likely means you will be at your assigned polling location for 14+ hours.
- Some cities and counties pay their poll workers. For example, poll workers in Louisiana receive a $100-350 stipend, and those in DC receive up to $250.
How Online Optimism Supports its Poll Workers
A value of Online Optimism is to “Support our Communities,” and we believe that encouraging our team to practice their right to vote falls within this. Ahead of Election Day, we remind our team about our policies surrounding voting. We also share resources and voting information relevant to Orleans Parish (New Orleans) and the District of Columbia, where our offices and the majority of our team is located.
Importantly, we also remind our team that anyone working the polls will have Election Day as a free PTO day. We understand the effort and importance of taking on this responsibility and aim to fully support employees who volunteer as poll workers.
At Online Optimism, we say that “work is work, not life” and strive to maintain a team who engages in their community and is actively pursuing their passions, whether it be through celebrating their cultural holidays through our Floating Holiday policy, using their Summer Fridays to take a weekend trip, or fulfilling civic duties as a poll worker.