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Poll Workers Needed!

Written by on Friday, June 7, 2024

Sarasota Supervisor of Elections reaches out to young people.


By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: June 7, 2024

Host: It’s election time, with primaries coming up on Aug. 20 and a general election Nov. 5. But who is doing the heavy lifting on election day? The county’s Supervisor of Elections office depends on volunteers — correction: temporary paid poll workers — to make it happen. We talked to Sarasota elections chief Ron Turner, and he says there’s an opportunity for high school and college students — particularly in August.

Ron Turner: Poll workers are needed a lot, and for both of these elections we need poll workers. But I’ll tell you that we need, especially for the primary election coming up in August because of the timing of it for us, because many of our poll workers may be kind of seasonal is the nature of our community here in Sarasota County, or people may be traveling in August, during that time period for vacations and things. So that one is a little … the need is probably a little greater even for August than November. 

Johannes Werner: That’s Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner. He is appealing to young people age 16 and up.

RT: Certainly for young people. We have a student poll worker program for 18 year-olds and actually for 16 and 17 year-olds that are pre-registered to vote. And what a great experience for them, especially student poll workers. We recruit student poll workers in the high schools in Sarasota County, but it allows them to have the day off from school. Certainly that’s a big plus, right, for students to earn some money. 

Our poll workers are paid and they’re compensated. We don’t take volunteers in the elections office for any of our positions. And so it’s a great experience for them if they’re going, say, to college, maybe, what a great thing to add, because I know college is very competitive these days to gain entry, so it would be a great kind of community experience to put on their resume for college or their applications for college. So it’s an opportunity for them to make a lasting impact in their community and learn about the elections process firsthand.  

JW: With all the political animosity and rising, but unfounded talk about voter fraud, should poll workers be concerned? Ron Turner says the experience in Sarasota is generally a positive one.

RT: Certainly, we take security seriously. And safety, whether it’s safety or voters or workers or things. But I think by and large, our poll workers have a great experience. We have wonderful voters in Sarasota County who are there to express themselves. They want to make sure that their vote is heard. And we’re just there to facilitate that process for them to make it smooth, to allow them to have a good experience when voting, so they will feel comfortable with it, they’ll want to come back time and again to vote with us. So I think most of our workers, at least in Sarasota County, for the large part, have a great experience with us. And I think the voters are appreciative and treat them well. 

JW: What kind of tasks and time commitment are we looking at? First of all, there’s training.

RT: We’ll have training before the election. And so we offer a few hours of in person training plus online training for the individuals. And it kind of depends on the position that they’re going to be working in, because there’s a clerk who’s in charge of the polling location, they have an assistant clerk, there’s inspectors that are there to greet the voters, check the voters in, check their identification, issue them a ballot.

There’s different types of roles in a polling location, so it kind of depends on the role, but there is required training under Florida law, and we do that in person and both online, and we do that prior to each election. So we haven’t begun the training yet for August. You have to do the training, which can be a few hours of training, and then election day is a long day. Polls are open 7 AM to 7 PM, but poll workers have to be there before the polling place opens in advance to set up and make sure that everything is ready for voters when they arrive at 7 AM and then at 7 PM the last voters in line still get to vote after 7 PM, potentially, if they were already standing in line. And then the poll workers have to shut down the polling location, reconcile the ballots and other duties that they do. So, it’s more than a 12 hour day. You’re probably talking at least 14 hours. It could be longer. It’s a long day.  

JW: Depending on the role, the pay can be from $190 to $315. So how do you go about becoming a poll worker? Go to sarasotavotes.gov, look for “poll workers” in the menu, and in the scroll-down click on “Join Our Team”. Remember: If you’re age 16 to 18, you have to pre-register to vote in order to be eligible.

This has been Johannes Werner in Sarasota, reporting for WSLR News.

 

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