(Elizabeth Schanz, Sept. 28, 2022)
Michigan – The state of Michigan has over 7.6 million registered voters, many who will be voting at the approximately 4,700 precinct voting locations across the state in the general election on Nov. 8. And in each of those precincts, election workers help make democracy possible.
Poll workers are a paid position across the state. Workers can be as young as 16 or 17, but if they are 18 or older they must also be a registered voter. They do not need to live in the city where they work. Many cities, townships, and villages are seeking out applicants.
Typically a day for poll works includes setting up the precinct in the morning. During the day workers do identification checks for voters, verify individuals are at the correct precinct, explain voting equipment for accommodations and execute procedural roles such as inserting ballots into tabulators to make sure each vote counts. Individuals then close the precinct after voting has ended.
The day for election workers is typically about 15 hours and the pay may vary depending where a poll worker may work. Some communities allow for half day shifts.
The pay for an election worker in the City of Rochester Hills varies from $180 to $230 for a day. Similarly, Orion Township poll workers are paid about $230 for a full day and about $300 for election chairs including their paid training before election day. Many locations in Oakland County have similar pay such as Ferndale, which pays poll inspectors $13 an hour and $15 an hour for chairs.
Penny Shults, the Orion Township Clerk expressed the value of the coordination of each individual on Election Day and how each contribution matters.
“We cannot do it by ourselves,” Shults said. “We need everybody to get that huge, massive event put in place. And itruns seamlessly when we have great planning.”
In order to start the process to become an election worker, individuals must fill out a State of Michigan Election Inspector Application. Then, they must fill out a second application through the clerk in the area in which they want to work. Poll workers do not have to live in the area that they sign up to work in.
From there, individuals who are hired are contacted before the election by the clerk to learn what their steps leading up to the election are.
To ensure that Election Day runs smoothly, Michigan law requires training for poll workers within 20 days before the election. This helps make sure that people are informed about what their responsibilities are, ease confusion and ensure integrity.
Training includes required certification and supplemental training that teaches people how to use the electronic poll book, which is how the state issues and tracks the ballots that are given to each voter.
With false claims of election fraud in the 2020 general election, election security and the training process seems to be even more important.
“On one hand, some election workers are more concerned with their safety and apprehensive about working in a precinct,” answered Leanne Scott, the city clerk for Rochester Hills and Deputy Clerk Shelia Brown . “However, we have also seen an increase of individuals who are interested in working an election to learn more about the process due to their skepticism related to the false claims.”
Individuals that work elections are able to experience the democratic process first hand and ensure that it runs correctly. Shults emphasized that working as a part of the “checks and balances” of the election process can set people’s minds at ease.
Shults said, “When you’re an election inspector you see the entire process from the inside, and you realize it would take the entire election team to be willing to commit some type of fraud together to be able to do that.”
The role of election inspectors allows individuals to further engage in civic participation beyond their own time in the polls. Their work is vital to the proceedings of the day.
“Election workers gain a sense of community and involvement by participating in our democratic process,” Scott and Brown expressed. “We could not hold successful elections without the participation of inspectors from the varying political parties.”
To become an election official individuals can start the process online through the Michigan Government website or contact the Clerk’s office in the city, township, or village they’d like to work for.