Did you know that you can make money from the elections? It might not be a regular income, but it’s worth signing up and registering your interest for any elections that may occur. All the elections that were due to be held in 2020 were delayed due to the pandemic, but you can find out about any elections scheduled to take place in 2021 including those which were postponed instead here.
Being a Poll Clerk
Being a poll clerk is probably one of the easiest ways of making money from the elections. There is a very small criteria and as long as you are over 18, literate, on the electoral register and not a member of any Political Party you are eligible.
You attend a training session prior to the day (depending on how long before the election it was called this may be face to face or online) but you get paid for that as well and then on the day you are the Presiding Officer’s right hand person. You need to be there before the polls open (so usually around 6:30am) and you need to stay right through until the polls close and the station has been secured and tidied (in my experience about 10:30 but this may depend on whether you have a queue at 10pm when the polls close and if you have a busier or larger station).
I cannot lie, it is a long day (I have done this a couple of times now) but it is interesting to be a part of. As a Poll Clerk your main duties are supporting the Presiding Officer and this involves everything from setting up the station including the voting booths, welcoming any voters who come to vote and answer their questions. Some people may have queries or be at the wrong polling station so ideally you need to good with people, but if there are any issues, your Presiding Officer will deal with it. You are also involved with issuing ballot papers, which is a strict but uncomplicated process.
What you need to know about being a Poll Clerk
- Pay for Poll Clerks varies across the country – so check with your local council when you register your interest. Including the training session you can be looking at between £150-200. It is worth bearing in mind if you have other sources of income this may be taxed though.
- You don’t need to know anything about politics – on the day you shouldn’t be talking about politics in front of anyone who comes to vote anyway.
- Although it is a key role, you have no “responsibility” as such. Any issues, queries or problems will be dealt with by the Presiding Officer, who in turn can escalate it to the Visiting Officers. It is very much a support role.
- Once the polls open, you are not allowed to leave the station. It is therefore worth planning your meals and entertainment prior to the day. Bring plenty of food and drink and a book or something else which you can do when it is quieter. Your Presiding Officer will have visited the Polling Station prior to the day and will be able to confirm what facilities there are (e.g. kettle for hot drinks and a fridge or microwave). My top tip is remember your phone charger!
- Depending on the time of year, you might need to bring lots of layers of clothes. Some venues are old church halls and can be chilly. In my opinion it is better to have too many options than not enough.
- Once you have registered with a council, they will keep you on their list so you don’t need to register each time there is an election.
Being a Presiding Officer
Once you have been a Poll Clerk you can apply to be a Presiding Officer. I had Poll Clerked twice before I decided to apply for this and was scheduled to be a Presiding Officer this year (so hopefully 2021 is my year).
You also have to have training, and of course collect the ballot papers and ballot box prior to the election, liaise with the venue (including possibly visit it prior to the day) and of course return the sealed ballot box to the council at the end of the election. You also supervise the Poll Clerk and the responsibility for the station falls with you. There are detailed instructions and you can call a supervisor or the Council Elections team at any time, but that experience of Poll Clerking will definitely help you. You also get paid quite a bit more than being a Poll Clerk (approximately £100 more in my local area) so it is worth trying if you feel confident and comfortable with the process.
Taking part in the count
Another way of making money from the election is taking part in the count. I have not done this so I cannot share any experience of it, but I know several people who have. This involves being at the count station from before the polls close right through the night until the count is finished. You are given training, and it can be a better way of making some money of it if you work during the day and cannot get the time off, but remember it may go on quite a while and can be tiring, especially if you aren’t used to working nights. Some councils allow you to be a poll clerk and then go and take part in the count, but in my opinion that would be too much and you should do one or the other.
All these opportunities usually fill up early, so it is worth registering with your local Elections office as soon as you can, so you already have registered your name if an election is called or is due. Also, if someone drops out due to illness or other availability issues then you are on the list they can use to find a replacement.
For more information about the election process and how the Polling Stations are run, check out the Electoral Commission’s Handbook.