Sunday, August 24, 2008

Governor Notes Need for Election Officials

No matter which political party or presidential candidate one supports, it is impossible to ignore the likelihood that this November's election will have one of the highest voter turnouts in recent memory. Both Republicans and Democrats are registering new voters and, judging from the heavy interest in the Democratic primaries, many of these new voters will be coming to the polls this fall.

Across the country, election administrators are scrambling to recruit and train new poll workers to serve the voters on election day. The anticipated long queues of voters will move much faster if there are sufficient numbers of poll workers to process them, answer their questions, solve any problems that might arise, and count the votes at the end of the day.

In Virginia, the term of art we use for "poll worker" is "election officer," (or "EO"). Each precinct is required to have at least three EOs, including at least one from each of the two legally recognized political parties (Republicans and Democrats). Election officials work a long day, since polls open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. (Their tasks begin earlier than 6:00 o'clock and do not end at 7:00 o'clock, however, since there are detailed procedures for opening and closing the polls to assure that votes are accurately counted and all the various forms documenting the day's activities are fully and correctly filled out.)

Last week Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia (who will not, it turns out, be a candidate for vice president this year) acknowledged the need for additional election officials in Virginia in a news release. Here is the text of what he distributed to the press on August 20:


~ Outreach efforts include partnering with businesses ~

RICHMOND - General Registrars and Electoral Boards around the Commonwealth are beginning to realize their goal of fully staffing their election precincts for the November presidential election. Localities are continuing to recruit people to serve as Officers of Election to help voters at the polling places on Election Day, November 4.

"In every election there is an opportunity for citizens to be part of the process," Governor Timothy M. Kaine said. "This year, we launched the 'Ensure the Vote' campaign to inform voters of the opportunity to help with elections in their communities. We are appreciative that employers throughout the Commonwealth are embracing this opportunity for community participation and encouraging their employees to get involved in their community on Election Day. State Farm Insurance, for example, has provided nearly 300 people ready to act as Officers of Election. "

Officers of Election assist the voter on Election Day. An individual must apply to become an Officer of Election and must be a qualified voter.

Virginia still needs more than 2,000 people to help on Election Day. Originally, 10,000 people were needed, but through community outreach efforts and business partnerships that number has been reduced. The increased need stemmed from the creation of 300 new precincts since 2004 and the projected increase in voter turnout for the November election.

In order to further focus the recruitment process, areas around the state have been designated as "hot spots" or places with substantial vacancies. These areas have recruited a large number of Officers of Election, but need more. These areas include: City of Fairfax, City of Richmond, Alexandria, Chesterfield County, Henrico County, Loudoun County, Virginia Beach, Frederick County, Norfolk and Pittsylvania County.

Earlier this spring, the Virginia State Board of Elections, in partnership with the Virginia Electoral Board Association (VEBA) and the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia(VRAV), launched a statewide campaign called "Ensure the Vote" to encourage individuals to become Officers of Election. The State Board of Elections has subsequently developed community partnerships with numerous businesses such as: State Farm, Bank of America, Erie Insurance, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Ukrops Grocery, League of Women Voters, US Investigation Services, Rockingham Group, LandAmerica, State Employees of Virginia and Phillip Morris: an Altria Company. These partnerships provide an opportunity for their employees to work the polls in their respective communities.

Applications to become an Officer of Election are available online and can be submitted through the web site. For more information on applying to become an Officer of Election visit the Virginia State Board of Elections web site at or contact your local registrar.

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In the City of Charlottesville, we have about 150 election officers ready to go on November 4. Fifteen of them (or about 10 percent) work for State Farm in their daily lives. Others work for the University of Virginia, Martha Jefferson Hospital, SNL Financial, and various local businesses. Many are retirees. (The average age of pollworkers in the United States is 72.) We also have high-school student pages drawn from the ranks of future voters who are not yet eligible to vote by dint of their age.

One hundred and fifty election officers is sufficient for most elections, but we could easily use 50 or so more. We have scheduled several training sessions during the month of October, so nobody should be afraid to offer themselves for the job out of fear that they will not have time to learn how to do it right. Pollworkers are also paid for their time and provided with lunch on election day.

Any registered voter is qualified to work as an officer of election. There is no requirement that he work in his own precinct, or even in her own voting jurisdiction. (Some of the EOs in Charlottesville live in Albemarle, Fluvanna, and Greene counties; they choose to work in Charlottesville for convenience or other reasons.)

Those interested in working as an election officer in Charlottesville can get more information through the Office of Voter Registration and Elections on the city's web site.

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