The following are some of my observations from working at the Ward 7 polls during the November election of 2012. I realize I am lucky enough to have a job and a life where I can take election day off to work at the polls. I write this not to shame anyone into signing up for this, but rather expose and promote the many upsides of the work. In Burlington, this job pays about $8.50 an hour, but it may be a volunteer position in your town.
Know your Inspector
Find out who the Inspector of Elections is in your ward. The easiest way is to call the City Clerk's office. While you're on the phone with the Clerk's office, you should also ask if they know if there is any training involved with working at the polls on election day. I had done the training once a few years ago. It was voluntary then, but things may have changed. You ward Inspector of elections may need help with tasks that don't require training, so be sure to talk with him or her before signing up for training. In my case, I alternated between directing traffic in front of the ballot boxes and sitting at the check-in tables where names are crossed off and ballots handed out.
Know your Neighbors
One of the biggest advantages to working at the election is that you get to see a lot of your neighbors. I can't think of a better way to get a glimpse of the makeup of your extended neighborhood. Not everybody votes of course, but it's nice to see who cares enough to take part. It's especially nice to be able to help out first time voters. If they leave with a smile they'll most likely be return customers.
Know the Rules
While you're working, go out of your way not to discuss any of the candidates or issues involved in the election. Chit chat is encouraged of course, but if someone starts talking to you about something on the ballot, politely change the subject or just plead the fifth. The voters should be the only one who touch their ballots. I learned this one while working at the ballot boxes. The machines we use here will reject the inserted ballot if there is a problem, and sometimes if there's not. Watch the voters cast their ballots and make sure they aren't walking away from a rejected one. When there was an issue, there was someone I would call over to take care of the problem so I could go back to watching others cast their ballots and assist them where I could.
Know your Limitations
Don't over commit yourself. If you have to leave at a certain time, make sure those working with you know from the beginning. If you have signed up to help close the polls, be prepared to stay past 9PM to help with the processing of provisional ballots and to help separate the ballots that have write in votes. This is where my polling place, and I would think every polling place where over 1000 ballots are cast, could really use more help. This seemed to be the biggest bottleneck in the process and also where we had the fewest number of workers.