What Do Election Officials Do?

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

May 2, 2006

You've probably seen them on the way into your polling place and chances are they've assisted you in some way, shape, or form. Many of us may not take the time to fully appreciate them. Here's why election officials play a big part in the democratic process.

Whether it's assisting voters at the information table...

"They are very helpful. I just moved to downtown, and didn't know exactly where I should be voting," said Lisa Colton, a voter in Charlottesville.

...Or in the voting booth, election officials are their to keep the polling site moving smoothly.

"So, I came in, and they helped me find the place I needed to go," added Colton.

"We do everything from checking people in, and demonstrating...the voting machines, to handling problems, or conflicts of where someone might be," said Harvey Finkel, Assistant Election Chief of the Key Precinct in Charlottesville.

Contrary to what some voters may think, election officials don't just sit around a precinct and talk. The staffers usually start their day around 5:00 a.m., and end as late as 8:00 p.m.

"We have to unpack the voting machines, we have to set up the tables and the chairs, [and] we have to put all our signage all over," added Finkel.

Each precinct has three election officials working as managers; a chief and assistant chief who oversee all operations and a close-out specialist who crunches the numbers at the end of the day. They range in backgrounds.

"Our group has a lot of retired people, but they've just recruit 26 new college students to work with us, and we have one of them here with us today," added Finkel.

There is small financial compensation, but the job pays in perks.

"We get to come in and see all our friends who might live in the same precinct we live in, and we get to chat with people," added Finkel.

Which usually makes the long day of voting go faster than expected.

Anyone can be a election official. All you need to be one is to be a registered voter in the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can call the city's registrar's office to get more information on signing up for the next election by dialing (434) 970-3250.

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