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Poll workers ‘vital’ to successful Election Day

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We’re all aware of the importance of voting — it’s our civic duty to make our voices heard when choosing our community leaders. But beyond just casting a ballot, there are other ways one can participate on Election Day to ensure a successful democratic process.

One popular way is volunteering to work a half or full day at the local polling place.

There are 600 precincts in Marion County, and five staffers are required at each site to keep things running smoothly.

That translates to a need for 3,000 poll workers to contribute every Election Day.

Russell Hollis, deputy director of the Marion County Clerk’s Office, said poll workers are vital to the success of an election.

“We depend on poll workers to open the precincts,” Hollis said. “To that end, if we had some sort of mass shortage of poll workers, we would be concerned with getting all the precincts to open on time.”

Polls are open in Marion County from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but full-day poll workers are scheduled 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some positions are able to work half-day shifts, either 5 a.m.–noon or noon until 7 p.m.

Though poll workers volunteer to serve on Election Day, they do get paid for their time. The pay amount varies based on the position filled.

Each precinct’s team is made up of five people, filling three types of positions:

— Inspector, one per precinct: “Boss” of the precinct, opens and closes the location, checks voters’ IDs, issues challenges, oversees accounting of ballots. Full-day position. Pays $110.

— Judge, two per precinct: Checks voters’ IDs, issues challenges, assists voters with disabilities, helps with the accounting of ballots. Full- or half-day position. Pays $70 or $35.

— Clerk, two per precinct: Greets voters, processes voters in the poll book, initials ballots, performs signature counts throughout the day. Full- or half-day position. Pays $70 or $35.

To volunteer for any of these positions, those interested need a little more than a desire to help. Poll workers must be registered to vote in Marion County, and each worker is required to attend a training session prior to Election Day. Beyond that, Hollis said they welcome just about anyone.

“As long as the person is willing to learn, they are able to be a poll worker,” he said.

The Clerk’s Office also offers a student poll worker program for certain high school students: 16- and 17-year-olds can be judges and clerks, and 18-year-olds can fill any of the three positions.

For students to participate, they must have permission from their school and from their parent or guardian, and they have to have a 3.0 grade point average or higher. Students get paid at the same rate as any other poll worker, depending on the position served and whether they work a half day or full day.

Hollis said Marion County typically gets enough volunteers to work the polls, but nobody would be turned away if the 3,000 spots were filled.

“We could always find a duty for someone to do if we have too many people,” he said, adding that having back-up inspectors could ensure that all precincts open on time, even if an inspector is running late or unable to make it to the precinct.

Hollis said it’s not uncommon for poll workers to come back election after election.

“I think the people who volunteer on Election Day enjoy being engaged in the community. I think they also enjoy helping the process of making an election successful,” he said. 

For more information and to sign up to be a poll worker, visit Indy.gov/election, call (317) 327-5100 or stop by the Clerk’s Office at the City-County Building during business hours (weekdays 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.).

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