OAK HARBOR — On Nov. 8, Ottawa County will need about 150 poll workers — technically called Precinct Election Officials — to help Election Day run smoothly. That is a lot of spots to fill, but the Ottawa County Board of Elections (BOE) is determined to find the right people to maintain the county’s long history of election integrity.
Although state law dictates that each BOE maintains party balance in leadership, Ottawa County takes that rule even farther.
“State law says that all 88 counties will have a director and deputy director of opposing major parties,” said Carol Ann Hill, a Democrat who is the Ottawa County Board of Elections director.
Wendy Millinger, a Republican, is the BOE’s deputy director.
“The state does not take that rule beyond the director and deputy director, but in Ottawa County, we have a history of wanting balance with the election clerks also,” Hill said. “I personally think it’s important to have two sets of eyes on the things that are done, like checking candidates’ petitions to be sure they are certified and making sure the voter registration database is upheld to the letter of the law.”
Election integrity trickles down from the State of Ohio
Election integrity trickles down from the state, which, Hill said, provides voting equipment that would be difficult to access.
“In all of Ohio, the voting equipment is never hooked to the internet. It’s very hard to believe that the equipment could be hacked. Someone would have to physically come in and physically alter it,” Hill said. “It’s under double lock and key. It takes us days to verify we have programmed it accurately.”
It can be a challenge to find 150 people to serve as poll workers each year in Ottawa County, which has a population of 40,557, and Hill is hoping more local people will step in to help on Nov. 8.
Ottawa County poll workers must be county residents and registered voters, and they must be willing to be trained prior to the election. Poll workers are paid $15 for the training class and $125 for working on Election Day. Voting Location Managers are paid $155 for Election Day.
Some poll workers are trained for specific tasks, such as setting up polling equipment or handling provisional voting. A provisional ballot is used when a voter’s eligibility is in question, such as when a person moves or changes their name without informing the BOE. Those ballots are verified before their votes are counted.
“Ohio has a very generous law regarding provisional votes. Ohio attempts to let every person vote who legally can,” Hill said.
State law mandates that poll workers remain on site all day.
“They can’t split shifts. It’s an all-day commitment,” Hill said. “On Election Day, poll workers begin at 6 a.m., and no one can leave until everyone can leave, which is often about 8:30.”
Ohio election law includes many checks and balances
At the end of the night, the Voting Location Manager and a poll worker of the opposing party take the voted ballots, the unvoted ballots, and the results of the polling location back to the BOE office.
“Ohio has a lot of checks and balances in place,” Hill said.
As she works to fills spots at the polls, Hill abides by those checks and balances. By law, the Voting Location Manager must be from the major party which had the most votes for governor in the last election. At each polling location, there is a balance of party affiliation, but when there aren’t enough Republican and Democrat poll workers, Hill is legally free to choose workers who were unaffiliated on the primary ballot.
“Half of the county is unaffiliated, so if we did not use that segment, we would really be restricting who might work,” she said.
Anyone interested in being a poll worker can contact the Ottawa County BOE at 419-898-3071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Port Clinton News Herald: Ottawa County eyes need for more poll workers