‘Poll workers are the backbone of democracy,’ so become one

Voters in Des Moines, Iowa, cast their ballots on Election Day in 2020.
Voters in Des Moines, Iowa, cast their ballots on Election Day in 2020.
Courtesy of Flickr / Phil Roeder

Being a poll worker for the California primary election this March was an unforgettable and rewarding experience.

I had gotten the idea to sign up as an election worker from my two friends who had been student poll workers last November. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about signing voters in and helping them work the ballot machines for 13-hour days, but I knew I would be serving my civic duty and getting paid. However, as I became exposed to a diverse community of voters and intimately witnessed the primary process unfold, I realized the value of being a poll worker. Our library was centered in the middle of Hollywood, so many of my co-workers were in the entertainment industry. Despite the seemingly monotonous job, there was never a dull moment in our poll room. I got to hear the stories and jokes of a comedian, a voice actor and a scriptwriter for three days straight. When I returned home from my first day on the job, late at night, my dad asked how it was. To his surprise, I was eager to return the next day and soak up more from the other poll workers.

Until Super Tuesday, the first two days of the polls didn’t bring in many voters. In between the infrequent arrival of a voter, my fellow poll workers and I sprawled on the floor and played Jenga and Word Assassin to pass the time. I got to know people who came from around the world. One poll worker was a woman named Marina. She was 78 and had moved from Uzbekistan to California at a young age. I soon discovered her talent in chess as she continued to defeat our other poll worker. Our lead worker was named Alona and she was from the Philippines. She brought us her homemade lumpia, which are delicious Filipino egg rolls. My closest friend during the election was a college student named Ani who was Armenian. During our lunch break on the second day, she brought me to Little Armenia in North Hollywood where I got to try two Armenian dishes, lavash and lahmajoun.

Along with being exposed to the rich culture that LA has to offer, working at the polls also enabled me to participate in our country’s democratic process. As the LA County election page says, poll workers are the backbone of democracy. We checked in hundreds of Angelenos and it wasn’t easy: We dealt with voters who got angry about the long waits, and people who didn’t know about the candidates or the propositions. At the same time, I learned so much election information from the process, like how many people are members of the nonpartisan party and the specifics about the proposition on the ballot.

At the end of the day, if you meet the 16-year-old age requirement, I would highly recommend that you sign up to be an election worker. I will definitely be returning in November for the presidential election because even if I don’t get placed with as vibrant a group as I had in March, being able to watch the democratic process within our country firsthand is an inimitable experience.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The UltraViolet

Your donation will support the student journalists of Marlborough School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UltraViolet

Comments (0)

All The UltraViolet Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *