Whether you vote blue or red or somewhere in between, there is no doubt about it: this fall’s election will be one to remember. The DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) is taking unprecedented measures to ensure every DC voter can vote. The board is sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter and placing ballot drop-off boxes across the District. Meanwhile, in-person early voting and day-of-voting centers will also be open.
While DCBOE staff are to be commended for their efforts to make this election as accessible and as safe as possible during a pandemic, their work wouldn’t be possible without poll workers, the unsung heroes of every election. Poll workers receive a small stipend and put in long hours to ensure that your vote gets counted.
DCBOE is accepting applications for early voting and Election Day workers for the upcoming election. To qualify, you must be a DC resident, at least 16 years old, and have completed at least four hours of training prior to the election. In addition, you must sign an oath stating that you will abide by the same restrictions against political activity that DCBOE employees are obligated to follow: you may not campaign for any elected office, hold an office in any political party or participate in the activities of any candidate in the District.
Michael Bennett, chair of the DCBOE, notes that for the upcoming election, DC will need about 4,000 poll workers. As of mid-September, more than 3,500 people had applied while 1,500 applicants had completed their training.
Once you apply to be a worker, you’ll need to sign up for training that takes from two to four hours. Depending on your availability, you may be assigned to work at one of the 32 early voting centers (which include five “super voting centers” at sites such as Nationals Park and Capital One Arena) or one of 95 Election Day voting centers.
Working at an Early Voting Center
Early voting centers will be open from Oct. 27 to Nov. 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. If assigned to an early voting center, you will work one of two six-hour shifts (8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. or 1:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) on days assigned. Early voting workers should be available to work approximately four shifts, including the weekend. Workers will be compensated a maximum of $600 depending on the number of shifts worked.
Working on Election Day
If you are assigned to an Election Day voting center, you will be required to help set up the voting center for two to three hours on the Monday prior to Election Day (Nov. 2) and then on Election Day (Nov. 3), from 6:00 a.m. to approximately 9:00 p.m. Election Day workers will earn a stipend of up to $250 with precinct captains earning a stipend of up to $300.
Hill resident Sara Lepley has signed up to be a poll worker for the upcoming election. She notes, “I’ve never worked as a poll worker, but the stakes for the election are so high that I feel like I need to do everything I can to make voting easier for others. During the 2018 midterms, I realized just how far some people will go to disenfranchise voters. It’s terrifying and it’s wrong. I hope that by volunteering as an election worker I can help counter some of that. But it will take much more than me!”
Chairman Bennett is pleased to see the enthusiasm that this election is generating. “Young people have really answered the call to be poll workers. We want to make sure we continue that training process, and we want to make sure people continue to apply to be poll workers.” Students who meet election worker qualifications may receive a stipend and/or community service credits for their participation. See the student election worker application for more information.
While assignments are made based on staffing needs versus location preference, DCBOE will try to assign you to a polling place near our home. For a list and map of voting centers across the District, see https://dcgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/instant/nearby/index.html?appid=763576faa0b1470ca0559c377cf3b497.
If you have questions see the FAQ, call DCBOE at 202-741-5283 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You too can be an election day hero!
Catherine Plume is a lifelong environmentalist, a writer and a blogger for the DC Recycler: www.DCRecycler.blogspot.com; Twitter: @DC_Recycler. She is chair of the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club, but the perspectives expressed here are her own and do not necessarily represent the positions of that organization.