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The Athens County Board Elections is one of many boards across the state seeking election workers. 

Athens among many Ohio counties seeking poll workers for election day

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced a recent initiative to recruit more poll workers. 

As the 2016 presidential election quickly approaches, many counties are struggling to find workers to man the polls.

“Something we hear almost every year is that it’s very difficult to find election workers,” Mike Brickner, the senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said.

In an address to the Ohio Association of Election Officials, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said about 40,000 poll workers are needed for election day. He also announced his office’s renewed effort, called “A Day for Democracy,” to recruit more poll workers.

The initiative would utilize several components, such as outreach efforts to corporations and charitable organizations, public service announcements, social media and other promotional materials.

Husted said the biggest component would be reaching out to businesses in the state and asking them to talk to their employees about helping on Election Day.

According to Husted, his office’s efforts have helped county boards recruit more than 8,600 poll workers.

“That’s not nearly enough,” Husted said. “I want to step on the gas on this a little bit and see if we can up that number significantly.”

The Secretary of State’s office plans to invest more money in poll worker training. During Husted’s first term, the office distributed more than $1.5 million.

The Athens County Board of Elections always brings in more employees for general elections, according to the board’s director Debbie Quivey. This year, it'll be bringing in more employees for the primaries in March and the general election in November. Workers help with various tasks, such as setup and working the polls.

“We are always looking for poll workers,” Quivey said. “That is a never-ending job.”

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People who serve as a “stand-by,” or someone who makes himself or herself available on election day in case the board calls for help, are paid $56.75 for the day. Workers also get $25 for training.

Brickner said many working people can’t make the commitment because they can’t take the day off work and also would have to commit time beforehand to training.

According to a 2013 report prepared for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a 2008 Election Administration and Voting Survey found the largest groups of poll workers are in their 60s, followed by people in their 70s.

Brickner said, though the average age of poll workers skews toward older people, many counties in Ohio have experimented with high school students. Some schools, for example, offer extra credit for students to work at polling places as part of their social studies classes.

“I think having an aggressive plan, particularly of younger poll workers, is one really good thing that local boards of elections could do,” Brickner said.

Quivey said the Athens County Board of Elections has had people of various ages, but they are always trying to recruit younger people.

“We have a poll worker that’s 80, and we’ve had poll workers before that are 17,” Quivey said.

The Ohio University College Democrats generally table to register voters prior to elections.

“We’re really encouraging early voting,” Andrew Price, the communication director for the OU Democrats, said.

Price said early voting could make the voting process easier, especially because students may face a long wait on election day.

Another issue counties have struggled with has been technology. Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, had problems with its electronic poll books last year.

“One of the issues that we saw in Hamilton County that really led to problems there was that they did not train all the poll workers in the precinct on how to handle issues with the electronic poll books,” Brickner said.

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Quivey said she wasn’t a fan of the electronic poll books. Athens uses paper ballots and a M100 Optical Scan, and it has a backup plan in case the machines go down.

“We are very fortunate because we have that paper ballot to always go back and look at,” Quivey said. 


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