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County Boards of Elections Prepping For Pandemic Impact On Election Day

Northeast Ohio county boards of elections are ramping up recruitment efforts for poll workers ahead of Election Day under the cloud of COVID-19.

The Lorain County Board of Elections has been recruiting volunteers for the past two months to ensure there are enough for Nov. 3, said Director Paul Adams.

That’s earlier than recruitment would normally start, he said.

“We want to make sure that anybody who’s interested in being a poll worker, we’re getting in contact with some way or another to prepare them to work for us this November,” Adams said.

The Lorain BOE has brought on about 100 new workers, he said, and has been reaching out to those who have worked previous elections to determine their comfort levels for helping out again on Election Day 2020.

“The vast majority have said yes, they’re willing to serve as poll workers for us,” Adams said. “But we’re doing everything we can to increase our – what we call standbys, extra poll workers beyond when we fill all the positions.”

The Lorain board is also evaluating locations to determine the safest ways to conduct voting, Adams said, down to how best to arrange rooms for social distancing while casting ballots.

“A lot of polling locations in our county may have different layouts to encourage proper distancing,” Adams said. “We’ve worked at already securing all of the PPE we’ll need for our poll workers.”

Lorain County needs a total of about 1,000 poll workers to fully staff its voting locations, Adams said, and plans to launch additional recruiting efforts soon.

Lake County Is Thinking Young

Meanwhile, Lake County has shifted recruitment efforts to focus on younger volunteers, according to Deputy Director Jan Clair.

“Most of us feel that there are more of those seasoned workers that are giving second thought to whether they do want to work at the polls this year,” Clair said. “So we’re directing our recruitment more to businesses, to younger organizations, and trying to recruit through that fashion.”

Recruitment efforts typically start quickly after an election cycle ends, Clair said, but this year, they’ve been pushing to reach out to more people earlier on.

“Of course, after coming through this primary, we definitely were on the phone and emailing, making sure poll workers would be available for November,” Clair said. “We’re starting early enough that hopefully we’ll get all those seats filled.”

The Lake County board is preparing a mass mailing to all available poll workers in the area, Clair said, and will have a better idea of staffing levels after that. The county needs 750 workers to staff its polling locations.

In Cuyahoga County, Optimism And 4,000 Poll Workers Required

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections hasn’t started actively recruiting new members, said Director Tony Perlatti. But it has conducted a survey of previous poll workers to judge how they feel about coming back in November, and about 70 percent of respondents said they feel favorable about working again this year.

The Cuyahoga BOE is issuing a second survey this week, to look more directly at coronavirus concerns and what potential poll workers would need to see in terms of precautions and procedures to feel safe come November.

“We’re casting the net a little bit bigger,” Perlatti said. “I guess the closer you get to Election Day, it probably becomes more relevant, right, because everything changes with this pandemic week to week.”

Returning poll workers will be permitted to do take the training program online rather than in-person. The Cuyahoga board is also working to find larger locations for the in-person training to allow for distancing, Perlatti said. Recruitment is set to begin in earnest in August.

Cuyahoga County needs 4,000 workers to properly staff its polling locations in November. It’s too early right now to tell how much of an impact the coronavirus will have in reaching that goal, Perlatti said. But the board will have a better idea of its needs after the survey and initial recruitment, Perlatti said. With that information, the BOE can start to assess gaps and where to focus efforts, he said, as well as where polling locations may need to be consolidated.

“I know it’s going to be a challenge, it’s going to be difficult to get enough individuals to work the polls, but at this point, I’m optimistic,” Perlatti said. “I think that’s the best thing to be, at this point, is optimistic.”

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