A polling place
is where voters cast their ballots in elections
The phrase polling station
is also used in American English and in British English, although polling place
is the building and polling station
is the specific room (or part of a room) where voters cast their votes. A polling place can contain one or more polling stations.
Since elections generally take place over a one- or two-day span on a periodic basis, often annual or longer, polling places are usually located in facilities used for other purposes, such as schools, churches, sports halls, local government
offices, or even private homes, and may each serve a similar number of people. The area may be known as a ward, precinct, polling district or constituency. The polling place is staffed by officials (who may be called election judges
, returning officers or other titles) who monitor
the voting procedures and assist voters with the election process. Scrutineers (or poll-watchers) are independent or partisan observers who attend the poll
to ensure the impartiality of the process.
The facility will be open between specified hours depending on the type of election, and political activity by or on behalf of those standing in the ballot is usually prohibited within the venue and immediately surrounding area.
Inside the polling place will be an area (usually a voting booth
) where the voter may select the candidate
or party of their choice in secret
. If a ballot paper is used this will be placed into a ballot box
in front of witnesses who cannot see for whom the vote has been cast. Voting machines may be employed instead.
Some polling places are temporary structures. A portable cabin may be specially sited for an election and removed afterwards.
There are five different types of voting technologies that are currently being used in the United States polling locations. These include hand counted paper ballots, mechanical lever machines, punch cards, optically scanned paper ballots, and electronic voting machines. Each location is charged with learning the technology and implementing the process to vote in each election.