Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The hours can be long and the work mundane.
But, each election season in New Mexico, hundreds of ordinary people – many of them retirees – sign up to help run the polls, issue ballots and monitor tabulation machines.
These temporary poll workers are the backbone of the state’s election workforce and they’re looking for reinforcements.
County clerks throughout New Mexico are stepping up recruitment of poll workers this month amid increased scrutiny following Donald Trump’s false claims of a rigged 2020 election.
The added skepticism is sometimes part of the recruiting pitch.
“If anybody’s really listening to all this rhetoric going around and they’re curious, the best way for them to find out is to come and work an election,” Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover said Tuesday in an interview. “We would welcome them aboard. Nothing we do is a secret.”
In fact, Doña Ana County Clerk Amanda López Askin said it’s vital for each county to have a mix of election officials from different political parties. Independents are needed, too.
“The more eyes on the election the better,” López Askin told the Journal.
All kinds of jobs are available. People can make up to $200 for one long day of work if they’d like to help operate the polling locations on Election Day.
Temporary employment is also available for people willing to staff early voting locations or the unit that handles absentee ballots.
The Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees state elections, said it’s too early to determine whether election falsehoods or threats against election workers have reduced interest in working the polls.
But the state and counties are aiming regardless to build a robust pool of potential workers ahead of time.
In some cases, they want to have back-ups trained and on call to fill in if someone doesn’t show up or opts not to work at the last minute.
“Working at the polls means you are on the frontlines of our democracy, assisting the voters in your community, and learning first-hand how New Mexico conducts free and fair elections,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said in a written statement.
López Askin said her office has seen steady interest in serving so far. But the county is always looking for more people willing to serve and that “we can never overemphasize” the importance of temporary election officials.
“If we don’t have them,” she said, “elections don’t happen.”
It’s almost never too late to apply, López Askin said, even just a week or two before Election Day.
Stover said she expects to have enough temporary election officials to carry out the election as usual, but that her office is always looking for more.
The clerk’s office works well with Albuquerque police and the Sheriff’s Office, she said, to ensure safety at polling locations.
The Dominion vote tabulation machines used in New Mexico have come under new scrutiny this year as Otero County commissioners initially refused to certify the primary election results, calling for a hand count instead. The Republican candidate for secretary of state, Audrey Trujillo, also encouraged counties to insist on a hand tally.
But the evidence from a post-election audit in 2020 suggests a hand count would not be more accurate. The audit – overseen by a certified public accountant – found error rates close to one-tenth of 1 percentage point, and at least some of the differences were due to hand-counting mistakes, not machine errors.
Esther Bailey, a temporary election official who has worked for the absentee board in Santa Fe County, said that working in an election has increased her confidence in the accuracy of the results.
“There’s no way there’s fraud when you have everybody watching you,” she said in an interview. “We oversee each other’s work.”
Bailey, who is retired and lives in Santa Fe, said she likes the chance to make a little extra money for travel and feels good about contributing to the community.
It’s also a great way, she said, to meet new people and make friends.