Conduct Inside the Polling Place
How are polling place officials chosen?
The Election Board consists of five officials: Judge of Election, Majority Inspector, Minority Inspector, Clerk, and Machine Inspector. All five should reside in the division where the polling place is located. The Judge of Election, Majority Inspector, and Minority Inspector are ELECTED to four-year terms. The current officials were selected in November 2013. The Clerk is appointed by the Minority Inspector, and the Machine Inspector is appointed by the County Board of Elections.
Often, Judges of Election, Majority Inspectors, and Minority Inspectors are NOT elected. Why? In some cases, no one ran for the position and in others, the person who was elected moved away or became ill on election day. If a vacancy occurs before election day, a Court of Common Pleas Judge should be informed so he or she can appoint someone else to fill the vacancy. However, in most counties this procedure is often ignored. Instead, five (5) days before each election, the Board of Elections appoints temporary officials. This informal process works adequately in most divisions.
Does the election board have to be bipartisan?
No. Although the Election Code attempts to create a bipartisan board, this result is not mandated. Generally, the Judge of Election and Majority Inspector are from one party, and the Minority Inspector and Clerk are from the other party. (The Machine Inspector gives one side a three-to-two majority.) However, last minute vacancies, and sheer unavailability of volunteers often hinder the creation of a bipartisan board.
Who is allowed inside the polling place?
From 6:30 a.m. until the polls open: members of the election board and all people with watchers' certificates. Candidates are allowed two watchers per polling place; political parties and bodies are allowed three watchers per polling place. Candidates and Committeepeople are not allowed inside the polling place unless they have watchers' certificates.
During election hours (7:00 a.m. until the last person in line at 8:00 p.m. has voted), members of the election board, people with watchers' certificates (one watcher per candidate and one watcher per party and body), people waiting to vote, and people rendering assistance to voters authorized to receive it are allowed inside the polling place. Candidates and Committeepeople are not allowed in the polling place without watchers' certificates. Police are allowed inside the polling place if summoned by the Judge of Election.
After the polls close: members of the election board, people with watchers' certificates, and candidates are allowed inside. Throughout the day: County Commissioners, election department employees on official business, and voting machine mechanics are allowed inside the polls.
MEDIA PERSONNEL are NOT allowed inside the polling place at any time.
NOTE: Any number of people may stand OUTSIDE the polling place. Anyone engaged in partisan political activity, however, must stand at least ten (10) feet from the entrance of the polling place.
May a Committee person serve as a polling place official?
Yes. For example, a person may be the Judge of Election and a Committee person. However, that person may not engage in any partisan political activities from 6:30 in the morning until the polls close. On election day, the individual must fulfill his or her responsibilities as a member of the election board and must act in a strictly nonpartisan manner. Furthermore, that person may not "take breaks" to perform the various duties of Committeepeople (for example, gathering voters and campaigning for candidates).
May City, County, or Court employees serve as polling place officials?
No. The Pennsylvania Election Code and the Constitution of Pennsylvania provides that County, City and court employees are ineligible to serve as polling place officials.
May City, County, or Court employees work at the polls in another capacity?
It depends. The answer is complicated.
COURT EMPLOYEES: A court rule approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prohibits all Court employees from engaging in partisan political activities. However, ballot referenda are not partisan, so Court employees may work at the polls to support or oppose a ballot question (provided they hand out materials at least ten (10) feet from the polling place entrance).
CITY & COUNTY EMPLOYEES: The Reading Home Rule Charter forbids MOST City employees from engaging in partisan political activities during working hours. Such individuals, therefore, may legally campaign for candidates on election day, a City government holiday. Similar to Court employees, County or City employees may also campaign for or against a ballot question as long as they remain at least ten (10) feet from the entrance to the polling place.