This Rochester Hills poll worker made $230 as a Michigan poll worker. Here’s what she shared for first-timers
ROCHESTER HILLS, MI—Claire Lynch has another important decision to make this November: deciding to again work the polls this November or not.
Lynch, 24, a social worker from Rochester Hills, had her first poll-working experience in March.
“I kind of just decided to do it because I had just gotten out of school and my mom had been doing it for years and kind of engaging my sister and I to do it, and engage in the civil process,” Lynch said.
It was also easy money, she noted. She signed up to work again in August, when she was admittedly “very broke at the time.”
A Difference in Tone
The March and August elections were different for obvious reasons. Lynch said she felt like it was the day after the March election that the first confirmed COVID-19 cases were announced.
She said she worked “a pretty small precinct” in March that “wasn’t super busy.” For the most part, voters were kind and observed pandemic safety measures.
By the August primary, when turnout rates are typically higher, Lynch said it was “pretty different.” Due to churches not having precincts open, she worked with four others at Rochester High School. Some voters were at the wrong location, which she said is customary every election. “It was definitely busier,” she noted.
Personal protection equipment was widely available on site. There was even a bag of disposable pens for attendees to use to mark their ballots. She said some people made “a few snide remarks about the pens.”
READ MORE: How To Become a Poll Worker in Michigan
Working the polls themselves is “not very glamorous,” she said. Completing mundane tasks like cleaning voting booths can be harder than people realize.
“For the most part, people wore their masks—which was nice because they were not required to,” she said. “We were allowed to ask them to wear masks. They were allowed to say no.”
An increased sense of animosity existed in August compared to March. Lynch used the example of one female voter who made remarks about mask wearing and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“I felt safe,” she said. “I was kind of bracing myself for anyone to be obnoxious or rude or anything. … Personally, I felt safe. But I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t.”
Another difference is that with more limited poll workers in August, even Lynch and her minimal amount of election-working experience could have been a precinct co-chair “because nobody wanted to work the election this time.”
Decent Money For One Day’s Work
She said she made about $180 working the polls in August, including an additional $50 in hazard pay. She attended a couple hours’ worth of training sessions, where she learned how to open and close polls, as well as use an electronic pollbook.
“I think a lot of young people should sign up to do it because it’s very easy to get mixed up on (the electronic pollbook) for older folks,” she said. “I’m 24 and it’s even confusing.”
She has discussed working elections with friends, especially unemployed individuals who have had difficulty finding stable work during the pandemic.
Learning about aspects like absentee ballots and how they are counted, and how the public stigma of ballot counting is contrary to what actually happens, was enlightening for her.
Department of State Addresses Election Staffing Concerns
The Michigan Department of State is actively recruiting poll workers as part of a “Democracy MVP” campaign, calling election workers the “most valuable players” who ensure free and fair elections.
These are individuals who can work in multiple facets: assisting clerks and counting ballots, as well as serving at polling places and adhering to strict public guidelines that are in line to protect voters and the workers themselves.
That has been accompanied by a “Partners in Democracy” campaign, set up “to help advance voter rights initiatives, increase voter participation and ensure polls are fully staffed.”
Put Yourself in The Frontlines of Democracy
As for working in November, she is on the fence.
There is an anticipation of longer lines and more first-time workers due to older people not working the polls due to safety concerns.
“I could imagine that people will be more amped up,” Lynch said.