Poll Workers

Information Regarding Poll Workers


Poll Workers are always needed in Primaries and the General Election by the state party, the county party, and candidates as well. Becoming a Poll Worker is the best way to help the Democratic Party ensure fair elections throughout the state. If you are interested in becoming a poll worker please volunteer, contact us, contact your county chair, or let your favorite candidate know of your interest.

The following page discusses the duties and some procedures that poll workers and officials must follow. This page is not intended to provide all of the information relating to poll workers, but it is a start to further your knowledge about the process. We thank you for your interest and hope you will contribute to the Democratic Election process.


Poll workers must be qualified electors, be qualified to vote in the precinct where they are to serve, not be members of a candidate’s immediate family to the second degree of kinship, and not be a member of a candidate’s political committee. §17-6-1.


The county commission pays poll workers according to state law. The state reimburses for all or part of the compensation depending on the election.

Returning officers, inspectors and clerks are paid up to $50 per day. In addition, each returning officer, inspector and clerk is entitled to an amount at least $70 per day for statewide elections for which the county is reimbursed. Poll workers are to be paid from the county treasury. §17-6-13.

Any local act which provides for amounts less than that indicated above is superseded by §17-6-13. If a local act provides for amounts in excess of §17-6-13, the county commission must pay the greater amounts.

In addition, poll officials receive an additional $3 daily from the county treasury if voting machines are used. §17-9-20.


Poll workers are appointed by the appointing board using the nominations of political parties or those who have previously attended poll worker training schools. §§17-6-1,17-6-6.

Appointing Board

The probate judge, sheriff and clerk of the circuit court, or a majority of them, act as the appointing board for the county. §17-6-1.

If any of the three are candidates, they shall not serve on the appointing board. §17-6-3. The probate judge certifies to the clerk or register who is a candidate and the circuit clerk appoints replacements who are qualified electors of the county. §§17-6-3,17-6-4.

If the circuit clerk and the register are both candidates, or the circuit clerk is a candidate and the county has no register, the probate judge certifies the names of all appointing board members who are candidates to the governor. The governor then appoints a qualified elector to act in the place of each appointing board member who is a candidate for election. §17-6-5. Members of the appointing board each receive $4 as compensation for their services. §17-6-4.

If one of the three officials is a candidate in a primary, but unopposed, and, therefore, will not appear on the ballot, that official can serve on the appointing board. 187 Op. Atty. Gen 16 (1982). A probate judge, sheriff or circuit clerk is not disqualified from service on the appointing board if a family member is running for office.

The only function of the appointing board is the appointment of poll workers. §17-6-1. The board receives nominations from political parties and makes appointments. §17-6-6. The board may have to supplement the nomination lists if they are insufficient. §17-16-17. If appointed workers do not report on election day, other workers may make appointments to fill the vacancies. §17-6-7.

Nomination for Poll Workers

In general elections each political party or organization having made nominations for an election may furnish the appointing board with a list containing the names of not less than three electors from each voting place (box, machine or electronic vote counting precinct). Lists may be filed by either the state or county party chairman or by nominees for office. §17-6-6.

The appointing board is required to select poll workers from the names appearing on these lists, unless the number of appointments to be made at a particular voting place exceeds the number of names on those lists which have been submitted. If more than two parties file a list of electors, appointment should be made from the lists presented by the two political parties having received the highest number of votes in the state in the most recent regular election. §17-6-6.

The appointing board is not required to select poll workers in equal proportion by party nor is any mathematical formula established to guide the number of appointments to be made from members of various parties. Mobile County Republican Executive Comm. v. Mandeville, 363 So.2d 754 (Ala. 1978) and Harris v. Conradi, 675 F.2d 1212 (11th Cir. 1982).

In primaries each candidate for nomination may, at least 25 days before the primary, present to the county executive committee of his or her party a list of electors from which poll workers may later be selected by the appointing board. §17-16-17.

Lists submitted by candidates to their party may include electors from one or more of the applicable districts, wards or precincts. From the lists submitted by the candidates, the county committee should make a list containing the names of six electors in each district, ward or precinct (box, machine or electronic vote counting precinct). The county committee should then present the composite list to the appointing board, for the board to select poll workers to conduct the primary election. §17-16-17.

Time of Appointment

The appointing board must meet between 20 and 15 days before an election to appoint the poll workers for each polling place. §17-6-1. Because of this requirement, lists of electors compiled by the political parties should be submitted to the appointing board at least 20 days before an election.

If the board has already made its appointment before a party list is received, the board is prohibited from making any subsequent selection from the party list. Ex parte Register, 257 Ala. 408,60 So.2d 41 (1952).

Number and Types of Poll Workers

The number and type of poll workers required at each voting place varies according to the manner in which votes are cast at the location as follows:

  • Paper Ballot Locations – Where paper ballots are used, the appointing board must appoint three inspectors and two clerks for each place of voting. One returning officer for each precinct must also be appointed. §17-6-1.
  • Voting Machine Locations – Where voting machines are used, the appointing board must appoint one inspector, one chief clerk, one first assistant clerk and one second assistant clerk for each voting machine. §17-9-23.
  • Electronic Voting – Where electronic vote counting systems are used, the appointing board must appoint at least one inspector, a registration list clerk, a poll list clerk and a ballot clerk for each polling place.
  • On-Site Absentee Balloting – [On-site absentee voting repealed by Act 2001-1097 in December 2001.]

Supplementing the Nominations

The appointing board may need to make more appointments at certain polling places than there are available names of electors on the lists submitted to them by the parties. When a party fails to supply a sufficient number of names for a particular polling place prior to a primary election, the appointing board must supply the deficiency from electors of that party. §17-16-17. If no lists are furnished prior to an election, the appointing board shall appoint inspectors and clerks from opposing political parties if it is practicable. §17-6-9.

When party lists are insufficient or not supplied, some boards select poll workers from records of previous appointments. Boards may also ask experienced poll workers and community leaders for suggestions, or they may randomly select poll workers from the list of registered voters in the manner jury duty is assigned.

Alternate Poll Workers

The county commission may authorize the appointment of additional poll workers up to a maximum of one per polling place in which electronic vote tabulating equipment is used. Additional poll workers must meet the same qualifications as prescribed in §17-6-1 except that: they do not have to serve in the precincts where they are registered to vote and they must complete the training prescribed above in order to serve. Additional poll workers shall be paid in the same manner as regular poll workers. Additional poll workers shall be used to fill vacancies created when regular poll workers either fail to complete the required training or are absent on Election Day. Unless they are assigned to specific precinct positions before Election Day, alternate poll workers must report to the courthouse (or other designated location) at the same time that regular poll workers are required to report to the polling places. They shall serve under the direction of the probate judge unless the appointing board designates some other individual to direct poll workers on Election Day.

Additional poll workers may be given certificates by the probate judge authorizing them to vote in the polling place where they serve if the ballots in those polling places contain the names of the same candidates for whom those poll workers are eligible to vote in their place of residence.

Replacing Poll Workers

Where voting machines are used, a poll worker who fails to serve at the polls is guilty of a misdemeanor unless previously excused by the appointing board. The appointing board must record the names of those excused and the reasons why they were excused. Further, these records shall be open to public inspection and kept in the office of the probate judge for the length of the contest period after an election. §17-9-21.

Oftentimes, there is a problem with appointed poll officials who either do not show up at their assigned polling place or wait until the last minute to notify officials of their inability to fulfill their obligations as an election officer. Most municipal and county officials have several individuals on stand-by to serve as election poll officials in the event an appointed election official is unable to be at the polls.

Vacancies created by excuses or disqualified poll workers should be filled in the original manner. However, if the vacancy occurs after the school of instruction for poll workers has been held, the appointing board must appoint a person having been certified in a previous school of instruction. §17-9-21.

Training for Poll Workers

Voting-machine officers are required to have had instruction in the performance of their duties. The authority holding the election conducts the school of instruction and, as a general rule, persons may not serve as voting-machine officers unless they have received a certificate from an authorized instructor stating that they are qualified to perform their duties with the machine. Election officials are required to qualify themselves to serve; hence, attendance at the school is compulsory, and failure to attend – without proper excuse – is a violation of the law. The sheriff notifies the persons who have been appointed as to the time and place of the school of instruction for voting-machine officials and publishes the notice at least 48 hours in advance of the school. The city clerk performs these duties in the case of municipal elections. §§11-46-30,11-46-101,17-9-19.

The Code does not prescribe when a school of instruction is to be specifically held. However, a school of instruction must be held not less than five days before an election or primary election for voting machine election poll officials. §17-9-19. This also applies to workers using electronic vote-counting equipment. The school must be held both before primary elections and again before the general election. Op. Att. Gen. No. 2001-006. Suggestions as to the format and who is to conduct the school vary as well. The basic format should include a lucid demonstration and explanation of operating a voting machine by the machine custodian. A machine should be set up to facilitate the demonstration. Other members of the governing body should be present for a question and answer session after the poll officials have become thoroughly acquainted with their duties.

Under Harris v. Siegelman, 700 F. Supp. 1083 (M.D. Ala 1988), the court ordered the state to also administer a training and certification program for poll workers in general (not limited to voting machine officers). Although this court order has expired, the Secretary of State’s Office is providing, at the request of the probate judges, training aids and technical assistance to counties.

Failure to Serve

In general elections a duly appointed poll worker who fails to attend the election without an excuse may be fined$100.00. §17-6-7. Failure of an appointed election official to serve in a primary election is a misdemeanor, except in case of illness. §17-16-54.

Alabama Election Handbook, Tenth Edition pages 72-77, and 125-126 & The Code of Alabama (1975) Sections (§§) sourced above.