In 2020, in some areas there are both local elections, but also elections for the Police and Crime Commissioner. Check out this page to see if there are any elections in your area. I will be honest, I was not aware that there were elections this year, but thankfully as I have been a poll clerk before, my local authority contacted me and asked if I would poll clerk again. I jumped at the chance, as they are interesting days, and obviously the extra money is a bonus.
I have been a poll clerk at an election previously, so I am not entirely new to it and I am able to tell you a little bit about my experience and point you in the direction of where you need to contact to see if there are opportunities in your area.
The first thing to do is to visit the government website page about finding your election office. You can put your postcode in, and it will tell you the details. You can also check your local council’s website and social media accounts, as some may post about the opportunities on there – particularly in the instance of the election in 2019 which was called at relative short notice, and at a time of year when a lot of people will be away or busy.
Either way, once you have the contact details, you should then be able to contact the election office and advise that you are looking to poll clerk if they have any vacancies. As long as you are over 18, are literate, are on the electoral register and NOT a member of a political party participating in the election you are eligible. Once you are registered with the local authority, you will have more chance of being chosen for subsequent elections.
What does a Poll Clerk actually do?
I have only poll clerked once, and I also had to attend a training session prior to the election day, but you get paid for that as well. As the 2019 General Election is at such short notice, my local council is offering the training online only, but you are still getting paid to complete it, it is just a smaller amount but as I can do it from home, that is fine.
On the actual election day, a poll clerk is one of two people (the other being the Presiding Officer) who need to stay at the polling station from before the polls open (so I had to be there at 6:30 am to ensure we had time to set up before the polls opened at 7am) right through until after the station closed (so we left about 10:30 at night). It’s a long although interesting day, and your main duties will include setting up the station and the booths, welcoming voters and answering their questions, and working with the presiding officer to issue ballot papers. You can find out more about what is involved and what is expected of you via the Electoral Commission’s handbook.
What is the pay like for a Poll Clerk?
Pay varies across the country from council to council, but including training, you are looking at between £150-200. Your local council will be able to advise their pay rate before you sign up, but it’s a nice little earner and it’s always great to have some extra cash at any time of the year.
What if I don’t know much about politics?
The great thing about poll clerking is that you don’t really need to know much about politics. In fact on the day, you shouldn’t talk about politics in front of voters anyway. As long as you are happy doing a bit of admin and marking off names as well as talking to people, then you will be fine. The training will explain everything, but the Presiding Officer is in charge on the day – you are very much in a supporting role.
Other key things to know about being a Poll Clerk
- There are also people who visit the polling stations from the council during the day who act as supervisors. If there are any issues during the day, they can be contacted by mobile, and the police will usually visit each polling station at least once as well.
- As you can’t leave the polling station once it is open, it is important to bring plenty of food and drink to last you the day. It might be worth bringing a book or something else to keep you busy as well. There were definite ebbs and flows of voters and during the quieter times it might be nice to have something to do or read. Also – DON’T FORGET A PHONE CHARGER! 😉 Also depending on the time of year – bring layers of clothes. Unless you know the venue well, it is worth having layers as you will be sitting still for most of the day.
- It is a long day but the time will fly. The election I poll clerked for had a relatively low turnout, but it was still a busy day and the time did fly.
- It’s also a great way to meet new people in your community – this was extra nice for me as I am still relatively new to the area.
- Other opportunities are also available – such as being a count assistant. I do know of one person who has previously been a poll clerk and then went straight to County Hall and did the count overnight. Some councils may allow this – but I could imagine this being ridiculously tiring, but it’s worth checking out. Perhaps the count might fit your availability better anyway. Once you have experience as a poll clerk, you can apply to be a Presiding Officer. You can earn more money this way – but you do have more responsibility, including that of returning the ballot box and all the ballot slips to the counting station after the polls close.
- These opportunities fill up quickly, especially as the election in 2019 was announced with about 6 weeks notice, so the election team were working on overdrive, so don’t leave it until the last minute to apply. Occasionally last minute opportunities will come up if someone has to drop out due to ill health etc, but it’s better to get your name down sooner, and once you are on the system, it will be easier to apply for future elections.
Let me know your thoughts on poll clerking in the comments below – and feel free to get in touch with any questions you might have about it, and I’ll try to answer them or point you in the right direction!