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SPOTLIGHT: Your 2021 voter guide to Cincinnati's races for mayor, City Council, school board and more ahead of Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 2. >>
Politics

With Election Day 20 days away, Ohio needs thousands more poll workers

 Secretary of State Frank LaRose holds a "help wanted" sign during an interview about the need for poll workers for the 2021 election.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose holds a "help wanted" sign during an interview about the need for poll workers for the 2021 election.

There’s less than a month till the November election. And local board of elections are short thousands of poll workers.

“We’re at this point, about 17,000 poll workers short," said Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose. "And so we're putting out the 'help wanted' sign."

LaRose said the greatest need is in the most populous counties of Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton, but 30 counties still need hundreds of poll workers.

There were 56,789 poll workers trained for last year's election, both repeat workers and new recruits. But like last year, the pandemic may be an issue for some considering working the polls.

But LaRose said the 88 boards of elections are working with county health departments on appropriate protocols: "If you feel comfortable going to your grocery store, you should feel comfortable coming to your polling location or working at your polling location."

After last year's vote, election officials around the country have been leaving those jobs after getting threats from people angry that former president Trump lost. Even some of Ohio's 18 Republican electors who cast votes for Trump in December cast unfounded doubts on the results. Poll workers have also been a target of bullying and harassment.

In his announcement that he's running for re-election, LaRose said the 2020 election was the most successful election in Ohio history.

And LaRose said through training, poll workers can fight false statements about the election. He said the Hamilton County Board of Elections got calls from a group of residents "asking for so-called forensic audits and all these other things that we really already do." After a tour, LaRose said they agreed to work the polls in the spring.

But as for the false narrative from Trump and other Republican officeholders and candidates that last year's vote was "rigged", LaRose said, "I have concerns about the way other states do things. But Ohio does it right. And again, I can't vouch for other states. I think that my colleagues around the country do an earnest job of running secure elections. But I can tell you in Ohio, there is no doubt that in Ohio, it's easy to vote, hard to cheat and that’s something we’re proud of.”

LaRose said his office is working with local groups to bring in poll workers, who are needed both from Republican and Democratic ranks. And he said his office is again getting clearance from the Ohio Supreme Court to offer continuing legal education credits for lawyers who are poll workers. Similar incentives are being offered to librarians, social workers, realtors and accountants.

There are no federal, statewide or Statehouse races on the ballot this year, but there are several contests for mayor, city council and local issues.

There are also two high-profile special elections for Congress.

One is in the 15th District, to replace former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R), who left in May and is now the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. That race features Mike Carey, a Republican coal lobbyist endorsed by former president Trump, against Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), who represents the 24th Ohio House district.

The other is in the 11th District, to replace former U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, who left in January to become the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. That contest features Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chair Shontel Brown against Republican business owner Laverne Gore.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.