Secretary of the State Celebrates Another 'Essential Worker'
Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas visited Woodbridge recently to celebrate Poll Worker Appreciation Day on Dec. 18, 2023. At a time when many local officials are facing an active – and potentially contentious - voting period, the secretary came with a reassuring message that her office will support them in any way it can.
Poll workers, according to the secretary of the state’s website, ensure voting is safe and all eligible votes are counted; they help set up and close a polling place; they assist voters and make sure they understand their rights and the voting process; and they protect the ballots and voting equipment.
Thomas mentioned stories from throughout the state of election workers’ mutual support, such as registrars covering for another, regardless of their party affiliation; and of Public Works crews picking up poll workers from their homes in a snowstorm.
Poll workers typically spend some 15 hours at the polls, starting from 5:15 a.m. to about 8:30 p.m. They are being paid for their time, between $12 to $18 per hour, according to the state election website.
Early voting is coming to Connecticut towns for the first time this year. “It’s a big lift for every town,” the secretary recognized, and promised help with recruitment and by offering training programs. In 2024, the election cycle starts with the presidential primary on April 2. And voters will have the option of early voting four days in advance.
The local registrars – Republican Anna Dickerson and Democrat Pennel Anderson – are out recruiting people for the job. In addition to the presidential primary, they will need people to cover the state primary (Aug. 5-11, election on Aug. 13) and Nov. 5 Election Day (with two weeks of early voting from Oct. 21 to Nov. 3)
Poll workers have to be citizens and need to take a 2-hour training class a week ahead. Anna Dickerson said she recruited poll workers during the municipal election last November, while people were waiting in line. And just like that, she added 35 names to her list of willing recruits. They do want to make sure that Democrats, Republicans and Independents are represented in equal numbers, she said.
Before Thomas took the office of secretary of the state about a year ago, she served in the state House, serving as vice chair of the Elections Committee. It became clear to her, she said in a brief speech, that although most people think they know the mechanics of voting, based on their experiences as voters, few actually are aware of the details. The poll worker appreciation ceremonies – in addition to saying thank-you, also raise attention to the critical work performed by them.
“Elections can easily go awry if those who work the stations don’t pay attention to detail,” she said. “This [ceremony] is a way to say thank you and for your community to say thank you.”
Former First Selectman Beth Heller in turn thanked the secretary of the state for highlighting “the importance that both she and I place on our local election officials to ensure well run and fair elections. “
“Over the past several years, our poll workers have faced new challenges due to the pandemic and increasing distrust of our elections by a small but vocal minority,” Heller said. “Despite these challenges, you have risen to the occasion and delivered elections that are safe, secure and fair.
“Your tireless efforts have made our community stronger and kept our democracy more resilient.”