How To Become an Election Official

Democratic elections are at the core of American democracy. Accordingly, states must ensure all general elections are free and fair at every stage of the election process.

Although many states have passed laws recently allowing greater access to absentee ballots or vote-by-mail options, many voters still prefer in-person voting. Election officials ensure the election process at polling places is free, fair, and orderly.

Becoming an election official allows you to participate in and protect the electoral process. This article provides information about how you can become an election official. Specifically, it answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about becoming and working as an election official.

Who Can Be an Election Official?

States have their own selection criteria for who is eligible to become an election official. Some of the most common requirements include the following:

  • You must be a U.S citizen
  • You must be 18 years old or more
  • You must be a resident of that state
  • You must register to vote in that state
  • You must take the required training assigned by the state

Election officials must be registered voters in the precinct in which they serve. The following people cannot serve as election officials:

  • Elected government officials
  • Candidates in the election
  • An office holder for a political party
  • Managers or treasurers of a political party
  • Generally, family members cannot serve as election officials at the same polling place

Most election officials must complete training sessions before assisting with statewide and federal elections. For more information, contact your county election office, local election official, or board of elections.

You may also apply for other poll worker or election worker positions, such as an election judge. Election judges have many of the same responsibilities as election officials. However, they also settle election law disputes that may arise.

What Does an Election Official Do?

An election official is responsible for ensuring that voting is conducted fairly. The following are some of the typical responsibilities of an election official:

  • Set up the polling place and voting equipment on Election Day
  • Provide assistance and accessibility to voters
  • Complete necessary paperwork and confirm voters' registration statuses
  • Operate polls and ensure proper voting procedures during early voting periods
  • Ensure the voting system and election proceed in an orderly and lawful manner

Many states have a chief election official. In 33 states, the secretary of state is the chief election official. Other states have a board or commission that ensures free and fair elections. The chief election official manages all elections in the state. This includes ensuring all counties follow election laws and providing proper training about running elections.

Do Election Officials Get Paid?

Most states offer a small stipend for the services election officials provide. However, the procedure varies from city to city.

The city of Madison, for example, requires you to fill out a W-4 before Election Day before it issues you a paycheck. Check your state's specific compensation procedures to ensure you get paid.

Need More Information?

The state-by-state compendium prepared by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission is useful for learning how to become an election official in your state. Your state's secretary of state website may also contain additional information about how you can participate in the voting process.

Other Resources

The following links provide helpful information about elections and voting:

For more information, browse FindLaw's Voting section.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand how to become an election official. They can also help you protect your voting rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Was this helpful?