Ohio Training Poll Workers To Handle Long Lines And High Emotions!


Ideastream.org, Posted October 8th 2020

While early voting mostly started without a hitch, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office says poll workers are being prepared in case any one of a number of controversies arise at voting locations this election.

County boards of elections have trained poll workers in de-escalation techniques in case they encounter trouble, said Merle Madrid, chief of staff for Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“People’s emotions are high this election,” Madrid said. “What we don’t want to do is have those emotions overtake the situation.”

Between the state’s face mask mandate, and President Donald Trump’s threads of election fraud and “poll watchers,” Madrid said people need to be clear about the rules. Campaigning is not allowed within 100 feet of an Ohio voting location, he emphasized, and only observers who register with the county board of elections are permitted inside.

Madrid said county election boards around the state on Tuesday reported long lines but otherwise smooth experiences with the first day of early voting. Lines may have seemed longer than they actually were, Madrid added, because people were spaced out under the state’s social distancing guidelines.

“People understood the need to wear that mask under the governor’s mandate, stay 6 feet apart, and nobody was out there trying to cause a ruckus,” Madrid said.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of State’s Office has urged election boards to boost their recruitment of poll workers – who help guide voters into polling places or early voting centers, check their registrations, set them up to vote, and otherwise keep an eye on the process.

“Many of these are older Ohioans, who are retirees, perhaps,” Madrid said. “Unfortunately, we know that the COVID-19 pandemic impacts that population more severely than it does younger populations.”

While a record number of voters are voting absentee this fall, LaRose expects high in-person turnout as well. Even with health precautions, Madrid said many existing poll workers won’t feel comfortable at a crowded voting location, while others may suddenly call in sick or have to quarantine due to COVID-19.

The Secretary of State’s Office set a goal of recruiting 55,000 poll workers statewide before Election Day. As of Wednesday, Madrid said election boards have already signed up and trained 46,000.

In particular, Madrid commended Columbus and Franklin County – which are just 2,000 shy of their goals – for recruiting younger voters and giving city and county employees a paid day off to work the polls. The Ohio State University offers something similar for its employees.

Elsewhere in Central Ohio, Licking County has already surpassed its recruitment goal, while Fayette, Perry, Union and Delaware counties are getting close.

“The best thing that could happen on Election Day, is that at 6 a.m., as polls are getting ready to open at 6:30, we can say to our reserve force of elections workers and poll workers, go ahead and head home for the day, we’ve got what we need,” Madrid said. “That’s the gold standard that we want to reach.”

This year’s emphasis on younger poll workers could also help support elections in years to come.

“Hopefully it’s a new generation who don’t just come out in 2020, but come out in 2021,” he said.

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