LA County Needs Hundreds of Pollworkers for Election Day

Super Tuesday is a week from Tuesday and Los Angeles County needs about 300 more poll workers for the presidential primary. KPCC Special Correspondent Kitty Felde signed up for poll worker training at a Los Angeles church.

Nicole Lowe: Welcome. My name is Nicole. I'm from the L.A. County Registrar Recorder County Clerk's office...

Kitty Felde: There are several hundred of us filling the pews at the Wilshire United Methodist Church. Step one: raise your right hand and take the oath of office.

Lowe: And that I will to the best of my ability faithfully discharge the duties of precinct officer. [Trainees repeat oath]

Felde: It takes about an hour and a half to learn the basics: how to set up the polling place, and what to do if a voter makes a mistake. You get three tries, by the way, if you're a clumsy voter. Instructional videos explain the security measures.

Instructional video: In fact, you must never leave the Inkavote reader or audio booth unattended at any time. Keep it securely stored at your home until election day, and never leave it unattended at any time during election day.

Felde: I was surprised to learn that pollworkers open up the ballot box after the polls close to separate the damaged ballots and those with write-in candidates.

Instructional Video: If you find the voter has written a joke name like Mickey Mouse or another joke name, or if you can't even read what is written, it doesn't matter. You still treat it as a write-in.

Felde: By far, most of the questions from the new pollworkers were about "decline to state" voters, the ones without a political party. Which ballot do they get?

Lowe: A non-partisan voter cannot vote for any other party besides American Independent and Democratic for this election. His question is, "Can they vote for a Republican?" No. They only have two options once again.
Trainee: Why?
Lowe: We do not decide at Norwalk. This is decided by the parties. We don't make that decision.

Felde: Instructor Nicole Lowe estimates she's trained at least 10,000 pollworkers since 2006. Why so many?

Lowe: Well, we have so many precincts, since L.A. County is so large, and we have at least 5,000 precincts, but we want each precinct to be manned properly. We don't want anyone to be short on the day of the election, so we want to at least have four to five on that team so everyone can get a break, the flow is easy, it's simple, and everybody has a good day.

Felde: This will be the third election for pollworker Sheila English. She admits it's not all fun and games.

Sheila English: It's a very long day. Sixteen hours, I think. You know, you've got different people to deal with. Some have attitudes, some don't.

Felde: English says she doesn't do it for the $105 the county pays.

English: I make more money when I work, so I'm losing money spending the day doing that.
Felde: So why do you do it? If you're losing money, why are you doing it?
English: Just, feeling like I'm doing something important.

Felde: Retired Santa Monica College professor Jo Kidd is a 10-time veteran pollworker.

Jo Kidd: I volunteer in memory of my sister, who worked in the polls all of her life since she was a youngster, and she died when she was 80-something. And so every time I work the polls, I think of her dedication to the election process.
Felde: Tell me what that experience is like for you. What do you feel like at the end, besides tired, at the end of the day?
Kidd: I don't really feel tired, I feel disappointed that there are not more people voting.

Felde: The county has been recruiting students to work on Election Day. Milana Kvitalashvila and Polina Tsvetikova are seniors at Pacific Hills High School in West Hollywood.

Milana Kvitalashvila: Well, we're in AP Government Class and our teacher was talking. We talk a lot about voting and things of voting sort. And he told us about it and we all decided to do it.
Polina Tsvetikova: I personally can't vote in this election, but I'll know for future reference how it's done.

Felde: But it was this particular election that inspired many new pollworkers, like 51-year-old Bailey Chen.

Bailey Chen: This year is going to be a very interesting presidential race. The Democrat, the Republican, you have very interesting candidates. And it kind of motivated me to participate in the election process to see how it works, and to see how the outcome would be.

Felde: Twenty-five year old county worker Olivia Rubio agrees.

Olivia Rubio: There's so much, so many important things going on in the history of America as far as the candidates, as far as the economy, so I just want to be part of this, actually putting these voices in these ballots and being part of the process. (laughs)

Felde: If you want to be part of the process, it's not too late. There are training sessions every day until February 3rd. All you need to do is call 1-800-815-2666 and push option 7. That's 1-800-815-2666.

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