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Poll Workers - The Champions of Democracy

While my office oversees the administration of elections, we rely on temporary poll workers to assist us with a variety of operational tasks. From setting up and staffing polling locations to checking in voters. From answering call center phones to processing and counting ballots. Poll workers are essential to help ensure that elections run smoothly and that we preserve the sacred right to vote.

Increased threats of violence against election employees and poll workers coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not surprising that fifty-two percent of election jurisdictions experienced a severe shortage of poll workers in 2020. Many poll workers, across the country and here in Santa Fe County, retired as they are the demographic who needed to stay home to stay safe in 2020. We rely on the institutional knowledge of these seasoned workers, so we had to get creative in order to retain as many of them as possible when I took office in 2021.


Today’s elections are more complex than ever so it’s crucial that we fairly compensate these essential workers defending our democracy.

The first thing I did was to nearly double the pay of early voting poll workers and messengers, whose pay was at the discretion of the elected County Clerk and who hadn’t seen an increase in many years. By statute, Election Day pay was set low, and so I and my fellow County Clerks worked together and pushed for a legislative pay bump. We succeeded!

Succession Planning

With my experience building successful temporary teams in large organizations, I knew we needed a succession plan. Our star Presiding Judges, who are older, have served for years, and possess tons of institutional knowledge, will eventually retire. So in 2021, my administration introduced a Presiding Judge Mentorship Program and a Post-Election Debrief program. The mentorship program provides an opportunity for new and upcoming Presiding Judges to shadow an experienced Presiding Judge during Early voting, to gain the confidence to effectively run a polling location. A Presiding Judge is the CEO of a polling site, managing operations, technology and a small team. It is no easy feat.

The Post-Election Debrief provides feedback from our election boards on what works well and what needs improvement. We hear from those on the front line on whether training, support and resources were adequate and how we can continue to improve. New and returning election workers appreciated the opportunity to participate in both programs and felt ownership of the election process by giving actionable feedback, increasing their likelihood of future service. Santa Fe County’s retention rate is now over 80%.

Think you might want to be an election clerk/future Presiding Judge?

Santa Fe County currently does not have a poll worker shortage. However, we are always looking for election clerks that may one day be Presiding Judges, and stand-by workers with hard to find skills. Click here to apply.

I'm proud of being an integral part of the success of the efforts of our Secretary of State and County Commissioners across the state. Our top national ranking shows how committed we are to making sure every vote counts.


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