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Modernizing Poll Worker Management:

Better Staffing Solutions for Smoother Elections

Elections offices work year-round to ensure voting technology is secure, candidate filings are accurate, and appropriate policies and procedures are adhered to.

One aspect of elections that’s often overlooked is poll worker management. A single election may require hundreds or even thousands of poll workers in a given county — not just on Election Day but for several weeks of early voting, depending on local laws. Recruiting, training, overseeing and paying all those workers is a massive challenge. Many jurisdictions still manage election personnel manually or use antiquated technology, leading to mistakes, delays and cumbersome processes.

“It’s probably the most time-consuming process of any election preparation,” says Ron Davis, the CEO of EasyVote Solutions, which provides election management solutions to state and local governments.

As elections offices across the country look to modernize operations, they’re seeking solutions that leverage automation to streamline workflows and free up employees to focus on higher-value roles. That upskilling enables elections officials to engage in strategic planning and problem-solving, rather than the task of managing and communicating with thousands of potential poll workers.

The Current Landscape

Several trends are driving the push to modernize poll worker management:

Outdated technology: One of the biggest reasons officials need to update their back-end elections platforms is simply because they’ve been ignored for too long. Only 9 percent of agencies have an automated solution for poll worker management in place today, according to a recent survey by the Center for Digital Government and EasyVote.1 And while most agencies do employ at least some technology to help handle their roster of poll workers, nearly a third — 30 percent — still manage poll workers completely manually, leading to tremendous inefficiencies in cost and resource management.

Security and consistency: Much of the focus on elections reform for the past several years has been on securing voting machines and protecting election systems from the threat of foreign interference. As states have worked to standardize security across local jurisdictions, they’ve also sought greater consistency in how local offices manage and oversee elections.

Workforce changes: As in other parts of government, elections agencies are contending with a wave of retirements from leadership positions as baby boomers leave the workforce. Additionally, the strain and increased politicization of overseeing elections in recent years has led to increased burnout among elections officials.2 Retirements like that lead to significant loss of expertise — a problem that’s only compounded when an office relies heavily on manual processes, says EasyVote Account and Product Manager Patrick Lee. “Doing it manually makes it harder to pass along institutional knowledge,” says Lee, himself a former local elections official in South Carolina. “With a more automated system, you can carry that data forward and you’re not so reliant on a particular skillset within the office.”

Rising expectations: Constituents have come to expect the same customer service experience from government that they get from companies in the private sector. That’s true for voters, candidates and even poll workers themselves. “Nobody wants to stand in line for more than 30 minutes,” says Davis. It’s especially crucial for elections agencies to focus on staffing at polling places, he adds. “Poll workers are really the face of your election office. When you go and vote, that is who you see.”

Impact of the pandemic: The disruptions of the coronavirus hastened a decades-long trend away from in-person voting on Election Day itself, as more individuals cast their ballots by mail or during extended early voting periods. In 1996, 89.5 percent of total votes in the U.S. were cast in physical polling places on Election Day, according to the Pew Research Center; by 2018, that number had dropped to 59.6 percent.3 In 2020, more than 100 million Americans cast their vote for president prior to Election Day,4 nearly two-thirds of voters that year.5 That record-high rate will certainly decline in post-pandemic election cycles, but the longer-term trends in many states toward extended voting periods an expanded options for casting a ballot make the task of staffing polling places more complicated — and more important — than ever.

Getting Started with a Poll Worker Management Solution

It’s important for agencies to find a comprehensive solution that’s truly built to handle the requirements of staffing and overseeing poll workers. Some election management solutions focus only on aspects such as voting equipment or pollbooks or the filing of campaign finance reports and other documents. Other systems may include a poll worker management module as an add-on, but they may be tools that have been added as an afterthought.

Instead, elections officials should look for a platform that was created from the ground up specifically for managing staff. The following are some critical capabilities for any effective solution:

Customizable database: Obviously, any staffing solution must offer ways to easily store and access poll worker information. But an advanced system should also allow officials to bifurcate that database by location, availability, previous experience, party affiliation and a host of other important factors. That makes it easy to track and manage staffing of multiple polling locations across a jurisdiction.

Communication: Recruiting and providing information and updates to poll workers is the most arduous part of managing elections personnel. A management system should allow officials to easily send out mass information to poll workers at the click of a button, based on their preferred method of communication, whether that’s text, email or a letter by mail. Solutions should also have a built-in capability to survey poll workers about their availability for upcoming dates and specific polling spots.

Training: All poll workers must undergo proper training. The best management tools not only allow officials to send out information and reminders about upcoming training sessions, they let agencies include training materials in the portal itself. Look for a solution that enables you to upload training videos, PowerPoint presentations, custom questions and crucial documents — and that indicates when a poll worker has completed the necessary training.

Payment: Most poll workers are volunteers, but many jurisdictions provide payment or expense reimbursement. With the right solution, says Lee, agencies can reduce the payment process from three to four weeks to under one week. Prompt payment is an important part of retaining poll workers from one election to the next. “If you can get this out quickly, you’re going to keep them coming back,” Lee says.

Flexibility and security: Cloudbased management platforms are easier to scale, and they’re more adaptable and flexible in times of disruption. The cloud also provides a seamless experience for agency employees in the current hybrid environment, whether they’re working from home, in the office or anywhere else. Agencies should look for a software as a service (SaaS) solution that’s easy to implement and update, and one that incorporates the highest cybersecurity standards, including data encryption, StateRAMP certification and NIST protocols.

User-friendly technology: A management platform must be easy to use for staff as well as for poll workers themselves, who tend to be 55 and over and may not have the same digital literacy as younger staffers. Older database systems and custom software solutions required higher skill and technological know-how. Today’s modern solutions have a clean interface and a portal that’s easy to use.

Elections have changed significantly in recent years, and agencies must modernize to keep up. Managing poll workers is time- and resourceintensive, and automating those processes provides greater efficiency, transparency and adaptability. This piece was written and produced by the Center for Digital Government Content Studio with information and input from EasyVote Solutions.

This piece was written and produced by the Center for Digital Government Content Studio with information and input from EasyVote Solutions.
EasyVote Solutions provides software applications that streamlines the processes behind running successful elections. Our customers are city, county and state elections offices currently located in 18 states across the US. Our customers find that the EasyVote Election Management Platform excels at the following; reducing the time to perform election tasks, improving communication and accuracy between election officials and workers; and providing data, enabling election officials to make intellig