So you want to be a poll worker?

Judi+Souza%2C+who+first+began+volunteering+as+a+poll+worker+in+the+election+of+1980%2C+has+helped+voters+at+the+polls+for+more+than+20+years%2C+gaining+a+valuable+and+extensive+amount+of+experience+along+the+way.+%E2%80%9CI+have+always+been+civic-minded+and+I+thought+it%27d+be+something+to+do.+There+were+ads+in+the+paper+saying+that+they+needed+help+and+I+was+intrigued%2C%E2%80%9D+Souza+recalls.

Esha Gohil

Judi Souza, who first began volunteering as a poll worker in the election of 1980, has helped voters at the polls for more than 20 years, gaining a valuable and extensive amount of experience along the way. “I have always been civic-minded and I thought it’d be something to do. There were ads in the paper saying that they needed help and I was intrigued,” Souza recalls.

by Sriya Batchu and Michelle Liu

Anyone who has ever cast a ballot in-person has been helped by a poll worker, individuals who dedicate their time and energy to the impressive and difficult task of staffing the election. From checking voters in to counting each and every ballot at the end of Election Day, poll workers play an essential role in the election process. Judi Souza, who first began volunteering as a poll worker in the election of 1980, has helped voters at the polls for more than 20 years, gaining a valuable and extensive amount of experience along the way.

Souza first started out as a clerk at the polls, learning how to help voters and count ballots under the guidance of the poll leader, a mentor who helped all the poll workers accomplish their role. As she became more experienced staffing the election, Souzasoon became a leader herself at the polls, teaching new workers how to run the polling stations.

“I have always been civic-minded and I thought it’d be something to do. There were ads in the paper saying that they needed help and I was intrigued,” Souza recalls.

Poll workers complete many essential tasks in order to help run the election. One of their roles is to make sure that voters know and understand their rights, helping to answer any questions that voters may have at the polls. On Election Day, poll workers also guide voters through the entire process, from checking voters in to keeping ballot stations clean and organized. After the voting period has ended for the day, poll workers then complete one of the most crucial assignments for the election: tallying the votes and making sure that each and every ballot has been accounted for.

“I want to really understand how the whole system works. Since I’m only 16, I feel like if I can be a poll worker then I can learn more about the system by the time that I’m able to vote,” said Aimee Wang (11). Aimee plans to volunteer the weekend before Election Day in Sunnyvale.

Being a poll worker is not without its challenges. On election day, Souza had to arrive at 4 am to set up the polling stations by assembling all the booths and putting up signs. Then, the volunteers spend the whole day helping voters. They only get to go home around midnight after they disassemble all the booths and clean up the area.

“It is a long process and super arduous, but at the same time it was nice since everyone made new friends and people got to bond,” said Souza.

Once in a while, sudden circumstances can threaten to thwart the county’s plans for voting, but the poll workers never give up. When Souza was volunteering in Oregon, a huge storm hit. Trees were blocking the road and the power had gone out. The county even had to bring firemen to the site to ensure the safety of the voters.

“Every time someone came through the door it was gratifying to see how they literally braved through the storm to exercise their right to vote,” said Souza.

To be a poll worker, one must be a registered California voter or a resident of the United States. If a high schooler wants to volunteer, they must be at least 16 years of age, have a GPA of at least 2.5 and have permission from their parents and school.

“I would want volunteers to be congratulated for stepping forward. It’s a very selfless thing to give up your whole day for another purpose. Know that what you are doing helps our democracy move forward.” said Souza.