What is a Supervisor of Elections?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A supervisor of elections is a regional official who oversees the electoral process in an area such as a county or province. These officials may be elected by the general public, or appointed by government officials. While elections only occur at set intervals, a supervisor of elections is usually busy year round, as elections require a great deal of work behind the scenes to run smoothly, from verifying that candidates can go on the ballot to making arrangements for polling places on elections day.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor of elections to oversee all aspects of voting.
It is the responsibility of the supervisor of elections to oversee all aspects of voting.

The supervisor of elections is usually assisted by a large support staff. The department of elections is required to keep information about historic elections as well as upcoming ones, and simply maintaining these archives and dealing with public information requests pertaining to the archives can be a lot of work.

The supervisor of elections provides information about candidates and measures on upcoming ballots.
The supervisor of elections provides information about candidates and measures on upcoming ballots.

Supervisors of elections provide information to voters and the general public, including information about how to register to vote, where to find voting precincts, how to get an absentee ballot, and how to get a candidate or measure on the ballot. The supervisor of elections also provides information about candidates and measures on upcoming ballots for the benefit of the public, or refers people to sources of this information, and oversees the production of a sample ballot in advance of the election which includes information about what's on the ballot, when the election is occurring, and how to vote.

A supervisor of elections is also responsible for finding and training polling place workers, maintaining polling place equipment and upgrading systems as needed, and collecting, tabulating, and verifying ballots after an election. In a large district, it can take a long time just for ballots to reach the supervisor of elections, as people may have to travel for several hours with the ballots from remote locations. Supervisors of elections also mediate disputes and assist with investigations into electoral fraud.

People who are interested in working as a supervisor of elections may want to consider working in the elections department to get experience. Many supervisors of elections have worked in various positions throughout the elections office before running for the position of supervisor or putting their names forward for appointment. It can also help to have a degree in a topic such as political science, which can be a strong selling point during a campaign when a candidate for the position wants to show his or her qualifications to voters.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I think the supervisor has to work with the budget that the local government gives them right?

Can they possibly engage in fundraising activities, or can they request for an increase in the budget? What happens if the money is not enough?


For our county elections, the supervisor makes lists of candidates and votes and works with the County Commission.

Some people think that the supervisor also has a say in the processes, like determining if a candidate is eligible. But this is not true. They simply organize things and answer voters' questions. The rest is left to the Commission.


There are also elections supervisors who travel to different countries, especially post-conflict to help organize and supervise the elections there.

Most of the time, these are places where there were internal disputes and even civil war which prevented elections from taking place for a long time. An international organization or country will try and organize elections once the violence dies down.

The supervisor of elections (and there can be more than one) is selected from a group of people who are knowledgeable about electoral processes and who have experience working overseas.

They basically do the same things described in this article. There might just be more emphasis on preventing fraud and providing security to those going to the polls so there isn't violence on election day.

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