Duties of local poll workers and their impact on 2020 presidential election


Grace Perrett, Staff Writer

 This past year has been one for the books. As a society, we endured a national pandemic, multiple natural disasters, and a record breaking national election. 

Elections could not happen without the help of many local residents who volunteer their time and effort. In order to be a part of this process, an individual must first go through proper training. 

“To work in the primary and general election, I had to attend a training session where I learned about the local voting process’s logistics,” said Emily Harris, local election volunteer and University of West Florida staff member. “After completing training, I was assigned a precinct and a position for the election dates.”

There are many roles to be played in the election process. At the top of the poll worker positions is the clerk. 

The clerk plays a part in the overall management of the tasks, poll workers, and activities that occur in the polling office. This individual serves as a liaison to the election office and oversees the other four positions. 

Underneath the clerk is the assistant clerk. The duties of the assistant clerk is to assist the clerk with any responsibilities he or she needs help with. They are also trained to do the jobs of the clerk in case anything were to happen that prohibited the clerk from completing his or her duties. 

Next on the chain is the equipment operator. The duties of this position are to remain stationed by the voting unit and instruct the voter on how to properly insert the ballot into the machine. 

The inspector is the individual who locates voters and assigns the appropriate ballot. This year the duties of the inspector looked a little different because of COVID-19.

“My role was as an inspector, so my primary responsibilities include checking in voters and maintaining the precinct’s cleanliness,” said Harris. “Once the polls closed, I assisted in disassembling the booths, equipment, and supplies, counted the ballots to ensure a balanced number of used and unused ballots, and ensured the building was clean and orderly before leaving.”

Last, but not least is the deputy. This individual is assigned to stand outside, direct people to the voting entrance, and ensure no one gets in line after 7 p.m.. 

COVID-19 has made this year very different to say the least. It has impacted the way humans live their everyday life. In the case of the primary election, it made the election process look a little different. 

Election poll workers had the additional responsibility of cleaning the booths, tables, pens, and basically anything that was touched by another individual in regards to the pandemic. 

According to the Pensacola News Journal, the number of votes cast in Santa Rosa County surpassed the number of votes cast in the 2016 presidential election by 1 p.m..

 “I was amazed by the turnout of this year’s local election,” said Harris. “The number of people that voted in person in November was vastly greater compared to the Primary Election. It was an absolute honor to assist my fellow community members in exercising their right to vote. I only hope that this amount of participation continues in the future.”

Harris encourages all who would like to get involved with the election process to do so. She believes it is a positive experience that can be both fun and educational.

“There are a couple of things to keep in mind,” said Harris. “First, it takes a serious time commitment. On election day, you can work at least fourteen hours straight. That is a lot of sitting, standing, and engaging with others. Second, you must be prepared to meet and hear from people with different viewpoints, and you must not care about what you hear or engage.”

Harris believes that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but “on election day, and through the election process, our job as volunteers is to uphold the policies, rules, and laws that we as a collective society have agreed upon for our voting process.”

According to Harris, as a poll worker, you must be able to hear the opinions of others and not let it affect you. Taking your emotions out of the process is one of the most mature and important decisions you can make as a poll worker.

For more information on updated election results visit https://www.pnj.com/elections/results/race/2020-11-03-presidential-FL-0/