This August, I worked the polls for the first time. Since learned so much from this experience, I now greatly encourage everyone to work the polls at least once in their lives. Here are 5 of the many benefits available to you:
1) You will experience and learn about the democratic process firsthand!
There is so much more to the election process than you might realize if you’re not involved firsthand. Traditionally, in order to work an election, you must first attend a training session at your local election commission. This is where I first learned how to operate the various machinery and how to best interact with voters; yet all of this newfound knowledge wasn’t what made the greatest impression on me. For part of our training, we walked through the warehouse where the voting machines are stored. As soon as I entered this room, the sheer number of voting machines took my breath away. There were thousands upon thousands of them neatly lined up in rows, and that was the moment that I again realized how amazing the democratic process is.
That being said, I truly did learn a lot about the technology and logistics involved in setting up even the most basic election. On the day of the election, I received even more first-hand experience with the behind-the-scenes work, which is fascinating if you’re a government nerd like me.
2) You will get to meet new neighbors and other important people in your community.
Since voting districts are further divided into precincts, most of the people you work with and encounter at the polls will live within a few miles of you. While talking to voters, I met quite a few people who I had lived beside for most of my life, but never met. Also, your fellow poll-workers will become your best friends for the day. Elections are crazy and hectic, so the experience is sure to instill a certain bond, no matter your political affiliation. You’re all on the same team for a day. Additionally, since I was the youngest person working that day, the adults were especially welcoming and made a point to take an interest in my life. Working the polls is a great way to gain a better understanding of the political make-up of your district, if you don’t already know.
3) You get paid to help your community!
I know, I know; it’s not all about the money. This is definitely true, but for broke high school or college students like me, it is an important factor. For many, working the polls is one of the easiest ways to make some quick change. For just one day of work, I was paid close to $200. Even better, most high schools will give you an excused absence and may even offer some extra credit to encourage your civic engagement.
4) You will finally understand why everyone is complaining about election hacking.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably never given a lot of thought to our election results being susceptible to hacking. However, my first-hand experience with these machines has now given me a better frame of reference for these concerns. The machines are actually very simple to operate, but sadly, not especially secure. For one thing, they are not connected to the Internet or backed up to any other online source. Instead, each result is stored in the machine’s hard drive. Therefore, if you are even slightly tech-savvy, you could likely hack into the machine and potentially change or wipe the data. In fact, this exact theory was proven to be true when an 11 year-old hacked into a U.S. voting system replica in ten minutes!
5) You get both the satisfaction and bragging rights of another successful election.
At the end of the long 13 or 14 hour day, you’ll probably be crazy tired, but with that exhaustion will come a sense of accomplishment. After all, without people like you, this election wouldn’t have been possible! So, go home, unwind, watch for the results you helped tabulate, and charge up for the next election.
Convinced? Here’s how you can start the process of working the polls on Election Day:
Find out if you are eligible.
Do you need to be a registered voter in your state?
Is there is an age requirement where you live?
What about a residency requirement?
Is a political party affiliation necessary?
Quickly contact your local election commission.
They’re almost always short a few workers and would probably be happy to have you! Act fast, though, because many states have registration deadlines, and November 6 is less than a month away.
RELATED READ: You’re Registered To Vote, Now What?
Now that you’re registered to work the polls, there’s a few important things you need to know for the day of the election:
Always wear comfortable shoes.
Chances are you’ll be on your feet a lot, and you don’t want to be sidelined because of a fashion emergency. Today is not the day for those super stylish pumps you’ve been dying to wear.
Make sure you pack a good lunch (and a snack…or three).
As I said earlier, this will be a LONG day, and you’re definitely going to get hungry. Don’t let your stomach get in the way of that welcoming smile!
Leave your phone in the car.
In order to fully attend to the task at hand, you can’t be live tweeting the election. Instead, save that impassioned Instagram post for your lunch break.
With all of this in mind, you should be set to kill it this election day. Happy Poll-Working! You go, girl.