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High number of volunteer poll workers to serve on Election Day in 2014

According to preliminary figures released by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), an estimate amount of more than 2.4 million poll workers will serve across the country and in other 141 cities located in 89 countries during the general elections of 2014. Out of the total number of poll workers, there are approximately 1.3 million citizens who volunteered to serve on Election Day. After elections are held, Electoral Courts will update such data.

There was an increase in the number of volunteer workers in comparison with the elections of 2010. Out of more than 2.1 million poll workers that served on Election Day that year, 404,723 citizens had volunteered to work.

Poll workers that will serve on Election Day should have been summoned by mail before August 6. Zélia Miranda, secretary of Personnel Management and coordinator of the TSE Poll Workers Work Group, noted that “poll workers play a critical role in the electoral process, and serve as major players to ensure the exercise of citizenship rights”.

Attributions

Polls workers may occupy different positions at their assigned polling places: Chair of the Election Board, Clerk or Deputy Clerk, Assistant Clerk and Deputy Assistant Clerk, and alternate. On Election Day, poll workers are responsible for organizing their assigned polling place; identifying citizens who appear to vote, and authorizing them to cast their vote; operating electronic voting machines; processing electoral justification forms; and ensuring that voting is conducted fairly and orderly.

Any eligible citizen may be selected to serve as poll worker, except the following individuals: running candidates and their relatives, even if by affinity, up to the second degree, and their spouses; members of the steering committees of political parties, provided they perform managerial duties; authorities, police officers and officials exercising functions held in commission before the Executive Branch; electoral service employees; and voters under 18 years of age. Poll workers are prohibited to wear garments or carry objects that feature advertisements of political parties, coalitions or candidates.

Volunteer Poll Workers Program

It is permitted to voluntarily participate in the electoral process, provided the requirements set forth in the Electoral Code (Law N. 4,737/1965) are met. In an effort to encourage voters to volunteer and take an active role in democracy by serving on the Election Day, the Electoral Court System has been organizing the Volunteer Poll Worker program since 2004.

The Volunteer Poll Workers Program was established with the purpose of increasing the number of people who spontaneously wished to support Electoral Courts and would like to serve at electoral boards. The purpose was to register volunteer poll workers, college students or not, who were eligible and duly qualified to satisfactorily perform their duties on the polling day.

In order to register as volunteers, interested citizens have either appeared before electoral registers or filled in a form on the internet at the official website of competent Regional Electoral Courts (TRE) or at the website of the TSE.

Electoral Courts have summoned voters in good standing and with a higher education degree, having assigned them to serve preferably at polling places where they had registered to vote.

Benefits and sanctions

Although serving as a poll worker consists of an unpaid job, these citizens are granted meal allowance and exemption from work for two days, which is applicable to both public and private jobs, for each day of service. Having worked as a poll worker may also be used as a selection criterion in entrance examinations to be admitted as a civil servant.

When summoned, poll workers are required to serve during the polling day. In case they cannot appear at their assigned polling places on the scheduled date, they must forward a justification to the competent electoral judge within five days after having been summoned. Impediments that arise after that time will be accepted, provided reasons are presented and proved.

Summoned poll workers who fail to file a justification for service absence until Election Day and do not appear at their assigned polling places on the scheduled date and time may file a justification within 30 days after elections are held. Poll workers who fail to comply with such rules will be subject to the application of a fine.

The sanctions for poll workers who fail to appear on the polling day and do not justify their absence are provided for in the electoral legislation. In case summoned citizens have impediments that prevent them from serving as poll workers, they are required to report to the competent Electoral Court. Failing to do so may result in the application of a fine or imprisonment for up to six months.