Tarrant County needs lots of poll workers to ensure the March 6 primary runs smoothly, newly hired Elections Administrator Nathan Neblett says.
Early voting for the primary begins Feb. 20, and throughout the primary season about 1,600 people will be needed to serve as election judges, clerks and other workers. Most of the positions are paid.
Having good people in those jobs not only ensures that the election is fair to all candidates and complies with all laws. It also leaves a lasting impression on voters, making it more likely they will return to vote in the future, including in municipal elections in May and the general election in November, he said.
On the other hand, if the lines are long and election workers struggle with basic tasks such as checking identification, looking up names, handing out ballots, translating information into languages such as Spanish or Vietnamese and keeping demonstrators away from the polling site entrance, then voters will be less likely to make the return trip.
The number of workers per polling site is based on past and anticipated turnout, and the elections office keeps a list of volunteers willing to deploy when and where their assistance is necessary, Neblett said.
Neblett, who started work the first week of January, said he doesn’t yet know how many of those roughly 1,600 positions still need to be filled.
During the next couple of weeks, area residents who have previously worked at polling sites will be contacted to see if they wish to work again. Once their responses are received, new hires will be made to fill vacancies.
Primary workers are separated by political party, with Democrats usually working at a table on one side of the room and Republicans on the other.
Donna Korman, a Republican, is precinct chairwoman at the Young Junior High School polling site in west Arlington. She has worked almost every election since 1998.
Korman often works with 10 to 12 people, although the precise number varies with each election. On election day, she gets up at 4 a.m. to ensure that she can be at the polling site by 6 a.m. and have everything ready to go when the polls open to the public an hour later.
“It’s challenging trying to make all the puzzle pieces work together, making sure I can match the abilities of each individual with the skills needed in a particular spot,” she said.
Korman said she isn’t sure if her counterpart from the Democratic Party who normally serves as precinct chairman on the other side of the gymnasium will be returning to work for the March 6 primary. It might be one of the positions that Neblett has to fill.
“I try to have a Republican and a Democrat at each table,” Korman said. “Balance is very important.”
In primary elections, workers are paid $8 an hour, Neblett said. Workers must also attend an unpaid training session.
For the most part, election workers must be registered to vote in Tarrant County and cannot hold public office.
But not all workers have to be old enough to vote, Neblett said. Students as young as 16 can “participate and assist in the democratic process,” Neblett said.
How to apply
Fill out a form available online and email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to Poll Workers, 2700 Premier Street, PO Box 961011, Fort Worth, Texas 76111.