Spotlight on Service: Making Voting Possible with Jacqueline Schulz

Meet Jacquie Schulz, the Registrar of Voters for the Town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, a county of over 14,000 voters. A veteran on the role for over 10 years, Jacquie is responsible for all things elections in her town– from maintaining voter records to administering local and statewide elections in conjunction with the Rhode Island Board of Elections and Secretary of State offices.

What are the key responsibilities on your plate today?

When I first took the job ten years ago, I thought it was simple: to keep the records and administer the elections. Now, ten years in, I realize it is so much more than that. My job is to encourage people to use their voice and make them comfortable with our voting processes. Many people feel frightened that they are not being heard or do not have a place at the table. At our office, we strive to relieve this fear and have people understand that when they exercise their right to vote, it is acknowledged, counted, and respected. Our responsibilities have shifted towards becoming ambassadors for voters in addition to being administrators.

How did you get into this work?

Before elections, I worked in government contracting and directed Christian education at a local church. When I transitioned to elections as a temporary employee, I was hooked. I found a purpose in ensuring citizens' voting rights because I believe that we in elections serve an important role – we are where well-crafted laws meet their citizens. Parts of my role, like recruiting poll workers, remain crucial to realizing the intended impact of our laws. We in elections are at the point where well-crafted laws meet their citizens.

What is your professional superpower?

I am a meticulous planner and love making lists and checklists. However, I've had to develop the other aspect of that superpower, which handles the triage when all of those plans blow up in my face. Not only do my responsibilities evolve, but my superpowers have to evolve too.

What keeps you up at night when it comes to the work you do?

3am is the witching hour when you wake up thinking you did something incorrectly or missed a date. Since we’ve gone through and are going through the trenches, we had to develop a working relationship of support in our office. We’re lucky to have a supportive network in our office, while many of our counterparts in other counties do this work alone. Feeling the weight of responsibility can be debilitating, which is one of the reasons why Civic Roundtable is so necessary. It builds a community of support.

What is something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?

I’m grateful for the relationships I’ve built over the past ten years with my counterparts, the people I respect here in Portsmouth, in other cities and towns, and now across the nation. I take pride in my relationships with poll workers, empowering them to perform their awesome duties on election day and having them understand that we have their backs, and they have ours.

What value do you see in learning from your peers?

It is absolutely critical. Learning not only from your own mistakes but being willing to admit your mistakes to others and the valuable lessons you take away from them is essential. That is information you can trust, and that is the type of information Roundtable nurtures.

How is Roundtable helpful to you? How do some of the challenges on your plate relate to why you are using Roundtable / how it's been helpful to you?

Roundtable is a safe place. Since everyone on Roundtable has a genuine interest, valuable experience serving elections, and vetted before joining, you know that a comment from someone on Roundtable has meaning. It's not just a public comment or somebody anonymously making their opinion known or throwing out an idea. These are messages that you need to listen to. These questions and comments matter, and they come from people who you know and respect. That’s why I value Roundtable.

Additionally, Roundtable is a user-friendly and easy platform to participate in and access everything you need, with important information posted by the Secretary of State's office and the Board of Elections. If I miss or cannot find an email, I go onto Roundtable and filter for what I need. It’s a supportive and honest forum to both receive and provide encouragement and information. I trust Roundtable because I trust the team running it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to / is about to enter your field?

Don’t be discouraged by negative or misconstrued headlines. Take the opportunity to go and meet people doing the job, and you will discover that they are beyond headlines and genuinely care about the process. Everything that you go through is worth it.