Election Day from the Eyes of Poll Workers

By Briana Vannozzi

Election Day for Ann Marino of Montclair means a wake-up call before 4 a.m.

When asked what motivates her every election to get up that early and come out, Marino said, “I honestly don’t know because every election I say this is the last one, I’ve been saying that for 20 years.”

Like most of the board workers at this Essex County polling site — and around the state — she’s a seasoned veteran.

“It’s better because they know what they’re doing, because sometimes if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could throw everything out of whack. And the people are all really equipped. They’ve been doing it long enough I guess they could do it in their sleep,” said Marino.

“Actually, close to 45 to 50 years ago, and I did it for 10 years and as I said I went on to a career and now that I’m retired I’m back,” said board worker Jackie Doerr.

Essex County hires 2,500 workers for the November election. Slightly less in June. They know the routine inside and out and keep it all running smoothly.

“Well they’ll sign in, and then you give them a slip and they go over there and they vote and you know someone sits there and they click them in, and then they have to click themselves out so that their vote would be registered,” Marino explained.

“We get thanked a lot,” Doerr said. “They thank us for participating. Some people come in, they think we’re volunteers. But we actually do get paid.”

Two hundred dollars for the day. Essex County will spend a little over $500,000 for all board workers this cycle. The commitment is long — about 14 hours. But for the folks here, they believe it’s part of their civic duty.

“I believe you gotta vote. That’s what our soldiers are fighting for,” said Mike Marino.

“It’s an opportunity to be a part of my community, part of the election process,” Doerr said.

The requirements to be a board worker are fairly simple. You must be a New Jersey resident, at least high school age, complete a brief training and most importantly, you have to show up.

Workers tend to skew a little older. They’re more likely to have the flexibility in their schedules than their younger counterparts.

“And I think when they think of the hours, it doesn’t exactly thrill them,” Ann said.

The state Division of Elections says they do have a steady stream of new applications all the time. But these poll workers say they don’t plan on giving up their spots just yet.

“I see people who I don’t normally see. A lot of them I know from when my children were small, so it’s kind of a mini reunion,” said Doerr.

They say it’s all worth it.

“When I go home, that pillow looks like a piece of gold,” Ann said.