The Clark County Board of Elections needs more poll workers for the May 5 election, part of an ongoing, statewide problem that may prompt more legislative action.
The board currently has 335 residents signed up to be poll workers, below the minimum of the 360 required for the election, said Clark County Board of Elections Director Matthew Tlachac.
But Tlachac said the board needs at least an additional 25 or more to fill the county’s open poll worker positions and to serve as on-call poll workers.
Typically poll workers are between the ages of 50 to 70 and as they age, develop health problems or move to warmer climates, officials have to recruit more to get involved, Tlachac said.
“We’re doing OK. We just need a little bit of help,” he said.
Champaign County Board of Elections Director Kathy Meyer said for the May 5 election, the county needed just 24 poll workers. But it only just this week reached that number.
“We always have trouble one way or another,” Meyer said.
League of Women Voters of Ohio Director Carrie L. Davis said her organization hears about some boards of elections in the state struggling to find poll workers every year.
She said there has been discussion in the legislature to change the law to break up Election Day into shifts to allow some poll workers to work a half-day. A law change recently allowed high school students to participate and that’s helped, she said.
Davis said it’s important for boards to convey the importance of the job. She added that boards can also work with local businesses, churches and community groups who can encourage their employees or members to get involved or use the day to get community service hours.
“There doesn’t seem to be a magic formula for poll worker recruitment,” she said. “Some counties seem to have better luck at it than others for a variety of reasons. It’s certainly a long day, but can be a hugely rewarding experience to be part of the democratic process and making elections work well.”
Clark County poll workers are paid $109 for the day. Voting location managers earn more, getting $122 for the day. Workers are paid extra for attending training sessions, Tlachac said.
In Champaign County, poll workers are paid $107 for the day, Meyer said.
Tlachac and long-time poll workers say pay is not always what attracts residents to participate on Election Day.
“A minority of the workers work just for the pay. I think most of them do it because they feel like it’s their civic duty,” Tlachac said.
“I think the pay helps and I think people should be at least in part compensated for their time and energy,” he continued. “But I think overall, people do it because they enjoy the experience, they like to have a first-hand glimpse of what’s happening behind the scenes.
“I think it just gives them ownership as voters, ownership as citizens that they’re involved in making such a crucial event happen.”
He said elections could not happen without the help of poll workers.
Shirley Campbell, 68, of Springfield, has been a poll worker for 23 years. She decided to become a poll worker because she felt it was her obligation to work in a precinct in her neighborhood.
“It made me a little more connected to my neighborhood and the people I see routinely,” Campbell said.
She continues to serve as a poll worker because it’s a “privilege” to participate in the election process, pointing out that there are other countries where people do not get to vote the way Americans do.
Campbell also said it offers a way to stay connected to the community.
She said poll workers are provided training and work with others on Election Day to ensure procedures are followed.
Campbell sees fewer serving as poll workers because people work longer hours or have family or work obligations.
“I still keep coming back because I do enjoy it. It’s a very long day and sometimes it can be stressful … but it’s always a positive experience,” she said.
Campbell agreed that earning money is not the draw.
“I don’t think the pay is going to make the difference. It’s more about awareness in the community,” she said.
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