Those working at polling stations usually work from early in the morning — an hour before the polls open on election day — to late at night, and sometimes into the early hours of the morning.

Those working at polling stations usually work from early in the morning — an hour before the polls open on election day — to late at night, and sometimes into the early hours of the morning.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Counting the votes in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 6, 2022


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The May 3 election has come and gone, yet many people vote without ever thinking about what it takes for such elections to happen and what those who work at polling stations do to ensure that these elections are performed accurately and properly.

“We have to set up in the morning. We get here an hour before the polls open,” explained Paula Kammer, co-chair of precincts 16 and 17 in St. Clair Shores. “We set up the voting booths, the computer tabulator, the (Voter Assist Terminal) machine and make sure all of the signage is up and everything is in proper order before we open the doors at 7 a.m.”

“During the course of the day, as a chairperson, I monitor what everybody does and I assign duties to everybody so everything is done on time,” added Dale Edwards, the chairperson of precincts 16 and 17 in St. Clair Shores. “We have several positions. We have the electronic poll book person who checks people in and verifies they haven’t voted or have an absentee ballot. She sends them on to the next person who provides them with a ballot. When they are done voting, they take it over to the person by the tabulator, and they will pull the tab off the top of the ballot and the person slides the ballot into the tabulator.”

Donna Eaton, the precinct 24 and 25 chairperson in Troy on May 3, said the key part of their role is helping ensure everyone who comes in can vote properly and knowledgeably.

“On election day, we are responsible for ensuring the voters get through the voting process,” she said. “For us, we start the first thing in the morning and get everything set up, and then when the voters come in, we make sure they fill out the proper documentation and answer any questions of theirs. We help them to submit their ballot, as well.”

“It’s not a hard job. It’s a long day, but it is only one long day, and it’s not a bad day,” said Edwards. “We all work together at the end of the day. Some people take down the signage that we have up. Others are putting things away. We have to close the tabulator out, and the poll book person has to close down the poll book and save about five different reports onto a memory disk that has to go back to city hall. After that is done, the chairperson and co-chairperson have to take a packet of our information, the ballots and the memory disk and take it to city hall. They pull our reports, and then we go through a check-in process to make sure everything is signed for. If we don’t do that properly, we might have to be called back to the Macomb County offices.”

Abrial Barrett, the clerk of St. Clair Shores, said many people don’t know that it is not only an important and rewarding role, but also one that is paid.

“A lot of people think it’s a volunteer thing, but they do get paid,” she said. “We also provide training and pay $20 for each training class they attend. Pay varies depending on what position and role they take. You just need to be age 16 or older.”

Aileen Dickson, the clerk of Troy, said that cities try to recruit election workers via a variety of means and that everyone who does the job is thoroughly trained prior to election day.

“For recruitment, we have a bunch of events we will be doing because of the new precinct map. We also have a web page dedicated to election workers. They can see there about what they would have to do, where they can volunteer, how to get training and so forth,” said Dickson. “For small elections like (May 3), we sometimes use them as a sort of training election for new workers, since we can move a little slower and have less pressure with people constantly coming in. We also can spare people to be out of the office for large parts of the day. We just have a few election workers out this year.”

Although the May 3 election was small in most communities, the primary election in August and general election in November are expected to be very busy, with county, state and federal legislative candidates and the Michigan governor’s race among the contests on the ballot.

“For August and November, they will both be very big,” said Barrett. “We will be looking for extra poll workers for both. We are so thankful for everyone who offers to help. It’s a long day and a lot of people need to take work off, but it’s a great service to the community. If people are interested, they should reach out.”

Eaton said getting more people working the polls makes the day far easier, the lines move faster and there are more people to double check the work.

“One of the reasons getting more election workers for the upcoming elections is so important is that, in the last couple of years, the whole election process has gotten called into question,” she said. “It’s important to have election workers who are properly trained and that are supported. We need people present to support the process. It’s all well and good to say voting is important, but if we don’t have the people to do that, it’s impossible. … The more workers you have, the more you can spread the work around or you can have people working on things together.”

Dickson said that working on election day can often be the best remedy for those concerned about election integrity.

“The best way to find out how elections work is to work at one. When people question how things are done, in my experience, it alleviates all of their concerns. You see how the system is set up to ensure there can’t be mistakes or mismanagement,” she explained. “You don’t have to work in your precinct, either. As long as you are a registered voter, you can work anywhere in Michigan.”

She added that many clerks’ offices are already looking for people to work the next two elections.

“The basics of it is that we need a minimum,” said Dickson. “We need at least three workers at each precinct. Aside from that, the more people we have in precincts, the more we can rotate through different jobs or allow them to take breaks. We have had elections where we had very few poll workers so we also want to make sure we have representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties. We try to be as close to a 50/50 split as possible. Having more volunteers makes sure we can have two people looking at every task at once.”

Information on working at a polling place is available by calling a local community’s clerk’s office. Many communities also have information posted online on their city website’s clerk page.

“I have worked on election day since 2015 a couple of times a year,” remarked Eaton. “It’s great to be part of the process. At first when I started doing this, where I worked, they gave me the day off so I figured I could do something that day. Since then, I’ve been thanked by so many people for working the election and understanding that, in order for people to vote, that they need workers (present) to help them out.”