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Counties count on poll workers for smooth elections

Election 2022 Florida Voting
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
Employees test voting equipment at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Miami, in advance of the 2022 midterm elections on Nov. 8.

There have already been millions of votes cast across Florida in the 2022 mid-terms, and it’s the poll workers in each county that help the election running smoothly.

“It takes approximately 600 poll workers to put on an election,” said Sonya Daniel, deputy supervisor of elections in Escambia County. “We’ve had a lot of turnover following the ’20 election. It’s probably about 50% returning and 50% new (workers).”

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Making sure there are enough people manning the polls during election season is a year-round job. In Escambia County, the process begins in the odd-numbered years.

“In that odd-numbered year we’ll do a series of what we call orientations,” said Daniel. “We will invite folks out who have expressed interest in being a poll worker and we’ll give them an opportunity to know what each position within the polling location does and what those typical responsibilities include.”
Those applicants can then choose where they would like to work at the polling place. There are, in essence, six positions that need to be filled in any given polling location.

“Our senior-most position is called a clerk. They’re in charge of a polling location on Election Day,” said Daniel. “Then we have an EViD supervisor. That position used to be called an assistant clerk. We (changed the name) when we went to using the electronic poll books in all of our Election Day locations. Because they are on an EVid, that’s the name of the machine, the electronic poll book where they check voters in. So that’s the roll of that EViD supervisor.”

Listen to Bob's full conversation with Sonya Daniel

The EViD supervisor is also trained in all the responsibilities of the clerk, so if something happens to the main clerk they can take over that role.

“The other four positions are the EViD operator, which is your primary voter check-in person,” said Daniel. “The equipment operator, which handles the tabulator and the ADA device for (people) with disabilities. Then you have the ballot issuer, the person who actually gives voters their ballot. And then the poll deputy (who) maintains the 150-foot no solicitation zone, assist voters in and out of the precinct, and just basically helps with whatever needs to be done in terms of maintaining order on the outside of the polling location.”

That poll deputy is not a police officer. They are a non-uniformed civilian who has no law enforcement authority. According to Florida state law, under normal circumstances, armed officers or civilians are not allowed in polling places.

“That’s a touchy situation, and it goes back to the civil rights era where the presence of law enforcement around polling locations would have been considered intimidation and would have affected some folks actually wanting to go to the polls”, said Daniel. “So we try very hard, unless there’s an emergency going on, to not send a uniformed officer in a police car or sheriff’s car to a polling location. But, of course, if circumstances warrant, then the clerk would make the call within the polling location, and absolutely we would send a law enforcement officer to that location.”

Daniel says that in Escambia County they are still taking applications for poll workers and will continue to all the way until 2024. That’s when turnover is expected to be the highest.

“We see a larger turnover anytime following a presidential election,” said Daniel.

Early voting continues until Saturday. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. For more information, visit

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.