People Who Can Help You on Election Day

Poll Workers and Election Judges are There to Help You

Election officials helping voters
New Hampshire Voters Head To The Polls For State's Primary. Alex Wong / Getty Images

When voters walk into a busy polling place on election day, they see a vast array of people, most of them rushing around, doing lots of different things. Who are these people and what is their function in the election? Besides (hopefully) lots of other voters waiting to vote, you'll see:

Poll Workers

These people are here to help you vote. They check voters in, making sure they are registered to vote and are at the correct polling place.

They hand out ballots and show voters where to deposit their ballots after voting. Perhaps most importantly, poll workers can show voters how to use the particular type of voting device being used. If you have any problems using the voting machines or are not sure how to use the machine to complete your ballot, by all means, ask a poll worker.

Poll workers either volunteer or are paid a very small stipend. They are not full-time government employees. They are people who are donating their time to help make sure elections are conducted fairly and efficiently.

If you run into any problems while voting or waiting to vote, ask a poll worker to help you.

If you make a mistake while filling out your ballot, let a poll worker know before you leave the polling place. The poll worker can give you a new ballot. Your old ballot will either be destroyed or placed in a separate ballot box for damaged or incorrectly marked ballots.

Election judges

At most polling places, there will be one or two election officials or election judges. Some states require one Republican and one Democratic election judge at each polling place.

Election judges ensure that the election is conducted fairly.

They settle disputes over voter qualification and identification, deal with damaged and incorrectly marked ballots and take care of any other issues involving interpretation and enforcement of election laws.

In states that allow Election Day voter registration, election judges also register new voters on Election Day.

Election judges officially open and close the polling place and are responsible for the safe and secure delivery of sealed ballot boxes to the vote counting facility after the polls close.

As regulated by state laws, election judges are chosen by a board of elections, county official, city or town official, or state official.

If an election judge appears to be “too young to vote” to you, 41 of 50 states allow high school students to serve as election judges or poll workers, even when the students are not yet old enough to vote. Laws in these states typically require that students selected as election judges or poll workers be at least 16 years of age and in good academic standing at their schools. 

Other Voters

Hopefully, you will see many other voters inside the polling place, waiting their turn to vote. Once inside the polling place, voters may not try to convince others how to vote. In some states, such "politicking" is prohibited both inside and outside within a certain distance of the doors of the polling place.

Exit Poll Takers

Especially at lager precincts, exit poll takers, usually representing the media, may ask people leaving the polling place which candidates they voted for.

Voters are NOT required to respond to exit poll takers.