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How do people get those jobs at polling stations (and how much do they pay)?

Staff are required for both polling stations on Election Day and count centres throughout Ireland.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

PEOPLE ACROSS IRELAND are heading to the polls this morning as General Election 2020 gets underway. 

As the country decides who will lead the next Government, thousands of Presiding Officers and polling staff have set up shop at polling stations in every constituency with counting due to get underway first thing Sunday morning. 

Who gets these coveted, well-paid roles staffing polling stations and tallying votes, though?

Here’s how it works. 

Officers & Counters 

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government estimates there will be 6,500 Presiding Officers employed for General Election 2020. That’s doesn’t include staff employed as ‘counters’ from Sunday onwards. 

It’s up to constituency Returning Officers to employ staff ahead of any election. 

Each constituency’s Returning Officer appoints Presiding Officers to work at polling stations. So, the more polling stations in a constituency the more Presiding Officers are needed. 

Jenny Bourgoise, who works with Dublin City Returning Officer Joseph Burke, told TheJournal.ie that her office generally puts an application call-out for both polling staff and count centre staff four to five weeks before an election. 

The General Election was called on 14 January so Bourgoise posted the application for staff online immediately after. 

Staff are required for both polling stations on Election Day and count centres throughout Ireland. 

Anyone is free to apply once an election rolls around, said Bourgoise. This year, over 1,000 people applied for election work. “It’s the biggest [number] we’ve ever had,” she said. 

In terms of who gets these jobs it’s generally a first-come, first-served scenario. The earlier you apply, the likelier you are to get election work. Successful applicants are then trained up by The Returning Officer staff. 

Capture Source: Dublin City Returning Officer

At polling stations, Presiding Officers are joined by polling staff. Presiding Officers, said Bourgoise, tend to be experienced people who’ve done the job before. 

In Dublin City, a total of 1,102 people have been employed ahead of Saturday’s vote to staff polling stations, distribute polling cards and cross voters’ names off their lists.

On Saturday, early shift polling staff will arrive at polling stations at 6:30am and finish at 10:30pm. Staff can’t leave the polling station but can take several 20-minute breaks if and when it’s quiet. 

On Sunday, at count centres around Ireland, Presiding Officers and “counters” – some of whom staffed polling stations the previous day – will get to work, opening ballot boxes and tallying votes. 

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These are the people you’ll see emptying votes onto long, wooden tables come count day. 

Polling clerks on election day are paid €367 for their 16 hours. For Presiding Officers, it’s €485 per day. 

Counters at count centres are paid €272 for the first 12 hours each day and €26 per hour after that. 

Rates of pay are set down by the Department of Finance and apply to election staff across the country. 

Bourgoise estimates than in Dublin City’s electoral area, about 20% of polling staff at who’ll be at the RDS this Sunday are active or retired Dublin City Council staff, many of whom are supervisors on the day. 

It requires a bit of experience to get that job, she said. In total, in the RDS on Sunday, there will 350 people tallying votes. 

Said Bourgoise: “You need a bit of a head on you for counting and checking.”

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