October 5, 2020

Edited 10/05/20

How to Cast Your Vote and Earn Income on Election Day 2020

Casting a vote is more than just a civic duty—it’s an opportunity to advocate for the future you want. And this year, participating further on election day could also help you save for the retirement future you deserve.

2020 is now synonymous with curveballs and cancellations, but at least one giant event is going on as planned: this year’s presidential election. You already know it’s a critical year to cast your vote. But if you’re not sure what the best way is to do so in the midst of a pandemic, don’t stress. We’ve put together a handy guide that answers all your election day questions. 

Itching to do more than simply turn in your ballot? Consider being a poll worker! This year, polling places around the nation are strapped for volunteers. Along with playing an important role in our country’s democratic process, you could bring in some extra income to pad your retirement funds as you save for your future.

Get Out Your Vote

Before you figure out whether being a poll worker is right for you, make sure you have a plan to vote. Are you registered already? It doesn’t hurt to double check that you are, especially if you’ve moved recently or haven’t voted in the last few years. Find out your status in under a minute here. Other specialized sites can guide you through more specific voting registration questions, like if you’re currently living overseas

If you need to register, head over to vote.org. They’ll walk you through a process that can be done entirely online in about two minutes. Don’t put off this step! Some states require voters to be registered before election day. (You can check out your state’s deadlines here.) Even if your state doesn’t have the early requirements, though, it’s smart to get this quick, easy step over with sooner rather than later.

Once you’re registered, it’s time to make your voting plan. Here are a few options to make sure your vote gets counted:

Mail-in/Absentee Ballot: 

Each election, millions of Americans vote securely by mail. In fact, five U.S. states conduct voting almost entirely by mail. 

This year, you might be eager to avoid in-person interactions and vote by mail. Many states understand that, and are attempting to make mail-in and absentee ballots more accessible than ever. In the past, some states required a reason (such as travel or hospitalization) to request a mail-in ballot, but this year, a fear of contracting COVID-19 is a valid reason in all states except six: Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Nine states are even directly mailing every registered voter a mail-in ballot, though you could still choose to eschew that one and vote in person if you prefer. No matter where you’re located, you can request your absentee ballot online in just two minutes. When your ballot arrives, open it right away to make sure it contains the correct personal information, take time to review all your choices for your local elections and initiatives, and carefully read the instructions for completing it. Some have very specific requirements for the way you fill in the bubbles, and others require signatures. Finally, follow the instructions to send the ballot back out to be counted. Many states ask that you affix the correct postage to your ballot when you mail it back, but won’t discard your ballot if it doesn’t. Some states, like California, allow you to track your ballot on its journey back to be counted.

Don’t forget to check out your state’s deadlines for both the last day you’re able to request your mail-in ballot, and the last day you have to send it back in. 

Vote in Person: 

If you feel safe doing so, in-person voting will be available throughout the country. You can find your local polling place here. Depending on where you live, you might also be able to beat the crowds and vote before November 3. Check out if your state offers early in-person voting here

Specific pandemic protocol will vary depending on your location, but the CDC has issued some general recommendations for protecting yourself and others from the virus. Come prepared with your own mask, maintain social distancing, bring your own pen, and follow the instructions of the workers at your site to help keep the process running smoothly. It’s always smart to bring a book or a smartphone to keep you occupied if your polling site typically has long lines, but those crowds bring a new danger this year. If you’re able, think about voting during off-peak hours, monitoring the lines from your car, and reviewing a sample ballot ahead of time so you can get in and get out quickly. 

Even if you plan on mailing in your ballot, it’s smart to know when and where you’re able to vote in-person on election day, on the off chance your ballot doesn’t arrive or it shows up with incorrect information. Plus, then you’ll be able to share that information with any friends or neighbors who aren’t sure how to cast their vote come November 3.

Getting Involved

If you’re feeling like you want to get even more involved in the 2020 election, there’s still time to sign up to be a poll worker. You’d be filling a giant need—officials across the country are fearing massive poll worker shortages. If those spots aren’t filled, polling sites may face delays or even be forced to close. If you’re able, being a poll worker can help maximize efficiency on November 3 and help make sure every vote gets counted. 

Plus, it can be a great way to earn some extra cash. Poll workers are typically paid for the work they do, including for their training. Some companies, including Old Navy and Target, are even offering current employees a paid day off to work as a poll worker. And once you’re trained as a worker, you’ll typically qualify to work again, meaning that you can continue to earn on future election days.

Still have questions? We’ve got answers:

What qualifications do I need?

This varies slightly throughout the country, and you can find your state’s qualifications here. Typically, though, you’re simply required to be over the age of 18 (though some states have student worker programs), and a U.S. citizen without a criminal past that would prevent you from voting. 

You don’t need any particular work history to qualify as a poll worker—once you sign up to be one, you’ll get the training that you need to do the job.

What will I do as a poll worker?

There are many different jobs to complete as a poll worker. You might help set up or take down equipment and signage at the site, sign in and assist voters, manage and inform crowds, and account for ballots at the end of the night. Each site will have inspectors and election officials ensuring that workers perform each job securely and according to protocol. 

This year, the job also includes preventing the spread of COVID-19. You might be called on to enforce social distancing, wipe down equipment, or provide unprepared voters with masks or sanitizer.

Do I have to work the whole day?

Some states allow most poll workers to split shifts, as long as the requisite number of poll workers are on-site at all times. Other states, or those that are short-staffed this year, require poll workers to work a full day. That typically means arriving at least an hour before voting begins, and staying until the end of the night, after the last voter has cast their ballot, each ballot has been accounted for, and results have been sent to where they need to go.

If a full day of work seems daunting, you can still sign up to be a worker, and ask during training if your area allows split shifts this year. Or, you can see if you can work during early voting shifts, which are sometimes shorter, more manageable days.

How much do I get paid?

This varies widely throughout the U.S. Many states commit to paying at least minimum wage, and some offer more. In Phoenix or Cleveland, for instance, you would add as much as $225 to your nest egg. In Milwaukee, you’ll earn closer to $160. In Denver, you can make as much as $20.50 per hour, while being a Dallas poll worker will give you $12 per hour. In states with early voting, you’ll qualify to work multiple days if you want, helping to boost those figures. Most states will also pay you for your training, and some municipalities will also cover you for travel if you must go more than 10 miles from your home. You will usually be informed about pay during the sign-up or training process in your area, and can also get more information on your particular state and county by choosing it from the dropdown menu here.

How can I sign up?

The process looks a little different for each area, but no matter where you’re based, you can get started right here!

Once you’ve signed up and learned how much you can potentially earn as a poll worker in your state, you can check out how that extra income can boost your retirement score. Silvur’s retirement score calculator shows you just how much temporary jobs like being a poll worker can help add to your retirement savings. That way, you’re not just voting for the future you want—you’re also putting away money to fund the future you deserve.