Type of Document Dissertation Author McAuliffe, Elizabeth Winslow URN etd-12032008-141341 Title The Unexamined Element of Election Administration: Why Citizens Choose to Serve as Poll Workers on Election Day Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Public Administration and Policy, School of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Mary Ellen Guy Committee Chair Lance deHaven-Smith Committee Co-Chair Kaifeng Yang Committee Member Sande Milton Outside Committee Member Keywords
- Poll Workers
- Public Service Motivation
- Election Administration
Date of Defense 2008-12-01 Availability unrestricted AbstractWith the approach of the 2008 presidential election, there is both hopeful anticipation and trepidation over how electoral processes will fare on Election Day. Yet the conversation, to this point, has been limited. Most discussion focuses on election technology, which is ever-changing. When attention turns to poll workers, it most often relates to that technology: Will a continually-graying semi-volunteer contingent of poll workers be able to successfully administer use of touch-screen machines, Scantron ballots, or other machinery? That question is not addressed in this research. Instead, poll workers are given voice as singular entities. They are given the credit they deserve as a primary component of democracy in the U.S.
Over 800,000 poll workers staffed more than 100,000 polling places during the 2004 presidential election (EAC, 2005). Even higher staffing levels and turnout are expected for 2008. Poll workers work as many as 14 consecutive hours for pay approximating minimum wage. What motivates them to do so is the subject of this research. There is very little existing research on poll workers, and none on their motivation. It is becoming more and more difficult for elections offices to staff polling precincts, given the graying of the polls and the increasingly sophisticated technology used there. This research is important because it can contribute both theoretically and practically to recruitment and staffing strategies.
Several bodies of literature are drawn from for this research: social capital and democratic theory, public service and volunteer motivation, coproduction, and principal-agent theory. Prior to this research, of these theoretical frameworks, only principal-agent addressed poll workers specifically (and then, in only one study; Alvarez & Hall, 2006). These theories were synthesized to generate 18 hypotheses and to create a 35-question survey instrument that was distributed and collected on-site at poll worker training sessions in Leon County, Florida. A total of 845 completed surveys were returned.
Analytic techniques included factor analysis, ordinary least squares (OLS), and bivariate correlation. Findings reveal the connections between public service motivation (PSM) and various characteristics of the polls, between PSM and principal-agent theory, and between PSM and demographic and attitudinal variables of poll workers. The result is a unique contribution to both theory and practice, with acknowledgement of poll workers as a singular hybrid of volunteer and public servant.
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