What to expect when working at an election

Updated: 11 April 2022

Our 100,000 temporary election workers play an essential role. There are a range of jobs before, on and after election day. While most jobs are for polling officials – the people who work at polling places around the country – other roles are available too.

To help keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, all AEC temporary election workers will be required wear a face mask and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Medical exemptions may apply for some roles.

Workers in mobile and remote teams will be provided with higher levels of personal protective equipment such as face shields and disposable gloves for higher risk settings. These workers also require current influenza vaccination. An exemption may be approved if the worker cannot access the influenza vaccination and the facility or community does not require it for entry.


Working before election day

The AEC needs polling officials from when an election is announced – typically five weeks before polling day. These roles help conduct early voting in each electorate and support mobile polling in places like aged care homes and in remote parts of Australia.

Staff also assist with administration and logistics in divisional offices around the country.

Work is usually conducted during normal business hours. However, as election day approaches, evening and weekend work might be required.

Working on election day

Most jobs are at polling places on election day. The day starts at 7am, when polling officials get a face-to-face briefing. After the briefing, polling officials finalise the setup of the polling place so that polling can begin at 8am. This includes things like setting up voting equipment.

Polling places tend to be busiest in the morning, although the whole day can be steady.  A small number of additional positions are available to help cover the busy period and breaks, and these are usually shifts of around five hours.

The size of polling places varies across Australia. Some large polling places take over 6,000 votes and employ around 16 people. Smaller polling places such as those in rural and remote areas may take only 100 votes and have a few staff members.

If you have special requirements or medical conditions, let your supervisor know before starting work so we can accommodate your needs.

What happens once the voting has finished

After the poll closes at 6pm the main job is to count the House of Representatives and Senate ballot papers. Training will be provided on how to do this.  It includes removing ballots from ballot boxes, unfolding, sorting and counting. The day usually ends at around 11pm when all votes are counted and the polling place is packed away, but this may vary depending on the polling place.

Breaks

Staff take at least a 30-minute meal break after continuously working for five hours. Meal breaks are co-ordinated by the supervisor.

Food isn’t provided. Not all polling places are near shops so bring enough food and drinks to get you through the day.

Working after election day

A large amount of work happens after election day. The primary job is to recount all ballot papers and determine the elected candidate for each House of Representative seat and for each Senate position. There are around 28 million ballot papers to count after election day across the country.

In addition to completing the count, there are a range of administrative tasks undertaken in divisional offices. This is normally during business hours but might include extended hours and weekend work.

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