A College Student working as a Poll Worker

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Poll workers are another one of our many groups of heroes of 2020. More than ever, people are needed to work the polls this year, especially because many Americans decided to vote early. In fact, 66 million (and counting) Americans chose to cast their vote early this year, as noted by National Public Radio, which makes the 2020 election our highest voter turnout in history. This is a direct result of the current pandemic, as seen with many public health and election officials recommending to vote early to avoid crowds on Election Day, as well as a growing excitement in voting among young people. In general, poll workers are essential for creating a smooth election process. Most notably, women are at the forefront of leading the charge in poll working. Although we are not entirely certain why this is the case, we can assume it is because women are often leaders of civil engagement. This can be seen with the 1920 ratification of the 19th Amendment and the creation of The League of Women Voters, founded six months after the ratification.

Sydney Teter, a senior here at Marymount Manhattan, decided to be a poll worker for this election cycle and spoke about her experience.

Q: Why was it important for you to be a poll worker? 

ST: Voting is one way to try and make a change, and it is so important, especially in the position our country is in right now. Voting gives people a voice and if I could have just a tiny part in trying to make those voices heard, I want to do it. 

Q: Why is it important for women to be poll workers? 

ST: I think women are underestimated, especially when it comes to being in a position of power so I think taking the opportunity to go somewhere, where women aren’t really taken seriously is important to try and change that narrative, or just show up and make it known that we are capable of doing anything a ‘man’ can do and very capable in doing a better job at that. 

Q: What was the experience like? 

ST: The experience was actually kind of disappointing. There were so many nice people and great interactions I had that day that made me smile and I will not let bad experiences take away from those, but it was hard not letting the disrespectful people outweigh the kind ones. 

Q: What was early voting like? 

ST: A really incredible, and surprising turnout. Lines far out the door, people standing in the rain, everyone wearing their masks, whether they wanted to or not, and so many people dropping off their mail-in ballots. 

Q: Would you do it again? 

ST: Being completely honest, I think I maybe would do it again depending on the location, but definitely not where I worked it. It is hard to put aside your own beliefs and deal with others who are very different than you, of course, that could be applied to any situation, but a day and environment that is already so chaotic and crazy, it could either really inspire you or really frustrate you. 

Q: Can you describe a typical day-to-day of a poll worker? 

ST: Having a lot of patience and being friendly, even though not everyone is like that, and knowing when you need to take a minute for yourself and step to the side. I was volunteering so this was a choice I made, but even the people in charge weren’t very nice and that was kind of disheartening. 

Q: Is there anything you think should change in poll working? 

ST: I would say the organization of it. I don’t think they were prepared for the abundance of early voters this year. 

Q: How did you find out about this opportunity? 

ST: My mom volunteered and I told her I wanted to help and do my part, so we went together. 

Q: How did people respond to wearing masks and staying safe?

ST: Almost everyone was very good about wearing masks and didn’t have a problem with it at all. There was only one person I saw that “forgot” their masks in the car, had to get out of line to go get it and then when getting back in line, yelled, ‘On November 4th, we won’t need to worry about these anymore’ and swung her mask around. Then, working out of the polls, she ripped her mask off and said, ‘4 more years!!’…. yeah. 

Q: Do you have any stories to share from your time? 

ST: There were a lot of very nice and great people going to vote that day, I want to make that clear and not take away from that at all, BUT there was this man that pulled into the parking lot, I greeted him and walked towards his rolled down window when he proceeded to stare at me, turn his radio all the way up playing a pro-trump radio show, and drove away and around the parking lot. Then after circling the parking lot a few times, he parked right by the line and just sat and stared while letting the radio show he was listening to, blare full blast for everyone to hear. After a couple of minutes, eye rolls from people in line and realizing he was being ignored, he yelled out his car window, ‘HEY! KEEP AMERICA GREAT’ and drove away from the vicinity.  

Although you might not get a chance to be a poll worker this time around, it’s always a necessity to get people to work the polls for each election, no matter how small! Poll workers are some of the most important people in an election cycle. If you’re interested in finding out more about poll working, visit https://www.eac.gov/voters/become-poll-worker. Use your voice, use your resources, use your vote!