I Was A Poll Worker On Election Day (Part 1)

Nikki Sylianteng
3 min readDec 9, 2020

I think one of the things that keeps people from getting involved in phone banking or poll working is not knowing what to expect. So I wanted to share how it works for those who are even the slightest bit curious.

I’ve broken it down into 4 parts:

  1. Application — Filling out the application form on the BOE website.
  2. Training — Everyone who applies is required to complete in-person or online training.
  3. Assignment — Work day and role assignment.
  4. Election day — The day/s that you have to report to work.


  1. I filled out a simple application form on the New York Board of Elections website. No cover letter necessary.
  2. I picked the dates I was available so I picked November 3, 2020.
  3. I then waited for my application to be reviewed and accepted.


  1. Once my application was accepted, I could click on the training link. I believe there’s a way to do this in person but I did it online.
  2. It took me 6–8 hours to complete training. It was long! I did not expect that.
  3. I was trained for every job (around seven) even though I was only assigned to one role. This might’ve been more useful had I signed up for several slots and different roles but I didn’t so I thought it was a waste of time. On the other hand, they probably also want you ready for whatever job they need you for.
  4. Once complete, I waited for your job assignment.


  1. Three days later, I was assigned my job and location. I got Line Manager at a location 30 minutes away by car (Brownsville neighborhood) from 5am to 9pm.
  2. I had no idea what a Line Manager does because it wasn’t included in the training and I didn’t know why! This made me nervous. I was scared that I was going to show up there not knowing what to do while everyone else did. In order to avoid this, I made sure to save a PDF of the poll workers manual on my phone. (Fast forward to election day: Everyone else who was new was also just winging it! Anyone who wasn’t busy could help out wherever.)

Election Day

  1. We were asked to arrive 1 hour before the doors opened and stay until the polls close when our coordinator says we can go. I got there at 5am and left at 10pm.
  2. There were about 15 other poll workers — 4 veterans (middle aged women) and the rest new like me and on the younger side.
  3. You get a two hour break in between and they encourage you to take the entire 2 hour block at once since it’s less disruptive.
  4. We started packing up by 9pm and finally left by 10pm.
  5. Five weeks later, I got a check in the mail for $350 (Net pay minus taxes $296.99).

Continue to Part 2 for how my Line Management job went.

Originally posted on my blog.

Nikki Sylianteng

Professional observer and problem solver.