Commentary: Poll workers are essential workers, for democracy

In a school gym with a dozen others, some still groggy at 5 a.m., a poll worker named Whitney raised her right hand and repeated after the chief election officer, “I do solemnly swear that I will perform the duties for this election according to law and the best of my ability, and that I will studiously endeavor to prevent fraud, deceit, and abuse in conducting this election.”

Whitney has been a poll worker several times in recent years. She reflects, “It’s fun to help people vote and it’s particularly exciting when you realize you’re verifying the identity of a first-time voter.” But she notes that seriousness goes with the fun. “It was eye-opening and reassuring — seeing for myself the accountability and number of controls to maintain the integrity of the election process.” Many jurisdictions provide mandatory training on issues such as the appropriate types of identification; how polling machines work; how to open and close a polling place.