What is a pollworker? What does the canvassing board do?
A pollworker is someone who assists in facilitating an election. Most of the time they are paid volunteers, although in certain states, they are selected by a political party. Pollworkers take care of everything from setting up a polling place, checking in voters, issuing ballots, staffing the ballot box, troubleshooting problems on Election Day, keeping a line of voters moving, enforcing no-solicitation boundaries, updating voter records, transporting supplies and equipment, maintaining the ballot chain of custody, upholding state and federal election laws and keeping careful documentation of election related duties/accounting.
The canvassing board is responsible for accounting for every vote cast during the election and certifying the totals within a specific time frame determined by state law. On Election Night, they convene to review unscanned ballots, ballots with write-in candidates,and the eligibility of provisional ballots. They also oversee ballot re-canvassing (machine recount) and manual recounts. This process can take weeks after an election, and the election results are not final until the canvassing board certifies and signs off on the official results, and those are submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.
Is every pollworker in a polling place a member of the same political party? Are they allowed to discuss political beliefs while on duty?
While it can vary from state to state, most jurisdictions will try to staff each general election and statewide primary election polling place with an equal number of members from different parties. Certain states require election workers to be appointed or elected by the two major parties, and party primary elections will only be staffed by workers approved by the party. Other states will allow third party/non-party affiliated election workers to serve, and chain of custody related duties must be carried out by workers from two different parties.
Pollworkers are not allowed to share their personal political beliefs with the voting public, and that gets drilled into our heads during training. Our job is to remain impartial, and if you encounter an election worker loudly discussing politics in the polling room, let the polling place manager know immediately. If we don’t know, we can’t remedy the situation.