Different Roles at the Polling Place on Election Day

The Wisconsin Elections Commission encourages all private citizens to vote and to become involved in the election process.  One of the most rewarding ways to do this is to become an Election Day poll worker, also known as an election inspector).  The Chief Election Inspector is in charge of the polling place, and has additional training requirements.

Citizen involvement is essential to conduct open, accurate and fair elections in Wisconsin. We hope that you will consider participation in one of these positions.

There are several different jobs at polling places in Wisconsin, all of which are appointed by municipal clerks.

Election Inspector 

Election inspectors help check voters in at the polling place and register them to vote, as well as issuing them ballots.  Election inspectors receive training from the municipal clerk or online from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.  They must be residents of the county where they will be working.

Chief Election Inspector 

The Chief Election Inspector serves as the lead election official at a polling place.  In order to become a Chief Election Inspector, you must complete online or in-person baseline training which lasts about two hours.  Chief Election Inspectors must be residents of the town, village or city where they live (in a pinch a Chief Inspector can be from the county).

Greeters or Election Registration Officials 

Each polling place can have one person appointed as an official Greeter who must be a resident of the county where they serve.  Greeters can also help at a polling place by making sure voters are in the correct line and assist with sanitization efforts.  Election Registration Officials, or EROs, must be residents of the county in which they serve and help voters registering to vote on Election Day. Both greeters and EROs must take some training before Election Day about the job they will be doing.

Tabulator 

Tabulators assist with ballot counting after the polls close on election day. State law does not make any specific residency requirements of these individuals.  

Polling Place Helper 

Some elections may need polling place helpers to keep the polling place organized. Depending on the clerk and the election, you may be able to volunteer to help out at a polling place by making sure voters are in the correct lines, assist with enforcing social distancing, and making sure the polling place is properly cleaned throughout the day.  Citizens who just want to help with these tasks on election day do not need to meet any training or residency requirements.

Poll Worker Qualifications

To be a poll worker, a person must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be 18 years old (except high school student poll workers)
  • Be able to read and write fluently in the English language
  • NOT be a candidate for any office to be voted on at the polling place at that election
  • Be a qualified elector of the county where the polling place is located. Please note Chief Inspectors must be a qualified elector of the municipality where the polling place is located (except for Polling Place Helpers).

A poll worker may also:

  • Have strong clerical skills
  • Be able to solve problems
  • Be an effective communicator.

Poll workers are appointed to two-year terms so you will be asked to make a minimum two-year commitment.   However, committing to one election cycle (Primary/General) is also appreciated.

Polling worker shifts can be between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Poll workers can work a full day, generally from 6:30 a.m. until approximately 9:00 p.m. or later in the case of November elections.  In many municipalities, election inspectors can work a split shift.

High School Student Poll Workers

Wisconsin law allows qualified students to serve as election inspectors, also known as poll workers. It's great way for students to become involved in their communities and learn about how government works.

Qualifications

Students qualify to serve as election inspectors if they:

  1. Are 16 or 17 years of age
  2. Are enrolled in grades 9 to 12 in a public, private or tribal school
  3. Have at least a 3.0 grade point average or the equivalent
  4. Have the written approval of their parent or guardian
  5. Have the written approval of the principal of the school in which they are enrolled, if the student has less than a 3.0 grade point average
  6. Reside in the municipality.

Students may serve only at polling places that serve their residence.

Written Authorization

Before a student may be appointed as an inspector, the municipal clerk shall obtain written authorization from the student's parent or guardian.  The clerk must also obtain written authorization from the principal of the school where the student is enrolled if the student has less than a 3.0 grade point average. Upon appointment, the municipal clerk shall notify the principal of the school where the student is enrolled of the date of the election at which the student will serve.

Restrictions

  1. A student may only serve as an inspector at a polling place if at least one inspector, other than the chief inspector, is a qualified elector of the municipality
  2. A student may not serve as chief inspector at a polling place
  3. A student serving as an election inspector may not challenge any person offering to vote.
     

Poll Worker Compensation

Are poll workers (election inspectors) compensated?

Yes, poll workers are compensated for working at polling places at a rate determined by the appropriate municipal governing body.  In some municipalities, they are also compensated for attending any required training sessions.  Poll workers may also choose to volunteer their services by filing a written declination of compensation with the municipal clerk.

Are poll workers' earnings taxable?

Compensation paid for election worker services is included in income and may be subject to income tax and FICA taxes as well as reporting requirements. Please consult the Internal Revenue Service website for information.

Can I be excused from my regular job to be a poll worker?

Wisconsin law requires every employer to grant an unpaid leave of absence to each employee who is appointed to serve as an election official, if the employee who serves as an election official provides their employer with at least 7 days' notice.  The leave is for the entire 24-hour period of each election day in which the employee serves in their official capacity as an election official.   Upon request of any employer municipal clerks must verify appointments.

If you are a state employee, Wisconsin Statutes provide that you may be appointed by a municipal clerk to serve as an election official must be granted leave without loss of pay or benefits for the entire 24-hour period of each election day in which the employee is serving as an election official. Employees must provide at least 7 days’ notice of the need for leave.

State employees may certify to the municipality that they choose not to be paid as poll workers.  Alternatively, those state employees who receive pay as election officials must certify in writing to the (state) payroll office the amount of compensation received. The agency must deduct that amount from the employee’s pay earned for scheduled work hours during the 24-hour period of the election day. State employees who “volunteer” but are not appointed to be poll workers must take vacation or leave without pay if authorized by supervisory staff.

Poll Worker Training Requirements

Municipal clerks are required by state law to provide training. This training provides all of the necessary information and knowledge to be a successful poll worker.  (Many municipalities require poll workers to attend a comprehensive training course prior to each Primary election.) 

 
Position Training Hour Requirements Training Location Residency
Chief Election Inspector

6 hours total of training per two year term
Baseline Inspector Training (2 hours)

Online or In-person Town/Village/City
Election Inspector

Some

Online or In-person County
Greeter

Some

Online or In-person County
Election Registration Official (ERO)

Voter Registration

Online or In-person County
Tabulator

Counting Votes

Online or In-person No Requirement
Helper

None Required

N/A No Requirement

 

Poll Worker Selection

How do I become a poll worker?

If you are interested in becoming a poll worker, there are two ways to be nominated: either through a nomination from the Democratic or Republican Party or by applying directly to your town, village or city clerk.

If you are active in a political party, you can be nominated by your county party to serve as an election official. You can find contact information for your county party chairperson by going to www.wisgop.org/county-parties/ for the Republican party or www.wisdems.org/county-parties for the Democratic party. You can select your county from these websites and view the contact information for your local party chairperson. Please note that party nominations must be submitted to the mayor, village president or town board chairperson no later than November 30 of each odd-numbered year.

If you do not wish to be appointed through a political party, you can be nominated by your mayor, village president, or town board chairperson. You can contact your municipal clerk directly to find out more about the application process. Your municipal clerk’s contact information can be found at MyVote.wi.gov.

How are poll workers selected?

According to State Statutes (7.30 ( 4)) the Mayor, President or Board Chairperson of the municipality is required to nominate poll workers to the governing body no later than the last regular meeting in December of odd-numbered years. The governing body of the municipality appoints the poll workers for a two-year term before December 31.

The nominees are to come first from lists submitted by the two dominant political parties, which are due no later than November 30 of odd numbered years, and may be supplemented at any time. Local party chairpersons are responsible for submitting theses lists of names to the Mayor, President or Board Chairperson of the municipality, for each polling place.

If a local party does not submit a list, or does not submit enough names, the Mayor, President or Board Chairperson may nominate qualified individuals on a non-partisan basis, without regard to party affiliation.

Where will I be assigned?

In smaller municipalities, there is often only one polling place.  However, in larger municipalities there are multiple polling places. In larger municipalities, every effort is made to assign a poll worker to their neighborhood voting site.  However, poll workers in larger municipalities such as large cities must be willing to be flexible and consider assignments at other sites.

Exceptions to Polling Place Worker Residency Requirements

Are there provisions in state law for poll worker appointments for people who do not meet residency requirements?

Yes.  Municipal clerks must fill vacancies with county or municipal residents except that if a municipal clerk or deputy clerk fills the vacancy, the clerk or deputy, but not more than a total of two individuals in any municipality, may serve without regard to the clerk's or deputy's county of residence, if the clerk or deputy meets the other qualifications.  

Clerks who need to make emergency appointments of poll workers could deputize a non-resident as a deputy clerk to serve as a poll worker.  This may be a helpful option for clerks who only need an additional poll worker but has limited utility for clerks who need a greater number of poll workers.  A clerk or deputy clerk who is a candidate at the election may not serve as an election official on election day.

How many non-resident appointments are allowed at one polling place?

State law requires not more than a total of two individuals in any municipality who are non-residents of the county serve as poll workers in an election.  

Roles for Non-residents on Election Day

  1. Polling Place Helper 
  2. Tabulator
  3. Emergency Poll Worker Appointments – Each municipality can potentially make up to two emergency appointments of non-residents to fill a vacancy if they deputize the non-residents as deputy clerks first.