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Election officials say worker hiring steady despite rhetoric

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Officials in three of Indiana’s most populous counties on Friday said they don’t expect much trouble finding workers for the November general election.

Voting rights groups in recent months have said they’re worried not enough people will sign up to be either poll workers, who run the voting sites themselves, or seasonal clerks, who help take care of logistical issues in the weeks leading up to the election. Poll workers are appointed by the parties while seasonal clerks are hired directly by county election authorities.

Julia Vaughn, with Common Cause Indiana, said she has seen evidence proponents of lies about the 2020 election being stolen have tried to bog down election authorities with document requests related to that election. She said she fears that, coupled with testimony from election workers in other states to the Jan. 6 committee about post-election harassment, could drive away potential election workers.

“Recruiting enough poll workers is always challenging and we’ve got an environment this year that potentially makes it even more challenging,” she said.

The Marion County Clerk’s office on Thursday put a sign-up table outside the City-County Building. Brent Stinson, deputy director of the Marion County Election Board, said only two or three people signed up, though he’s not yet concerned about having enough people. He said the political parties typically step up their poll worker recruitment efforts after Labor Day. Right now, Stinson said election worker recruitment is about where it usually is this far from Election Day.

Stinson said the election board pays closer attention to political rhetoric surrounding elections than it has in previous years due to efforts to discredit the 2020 election. Still, he said safety issues don’t seem to have any noticeable impact on staffing for this fall.

“I have not heard any real (safety) concerns other than just anecdotal things,” he said, adding the election board will soon add a guard at its annex facility on East Washington Street, where voting machines are stored and most processing takes place.

Stinson said Marion County was a little short on poll workers during the primary but attributed that to party precinct and delegate elections that were held during that cycle. He noted poll workers cannot be political candidates or have immediate family members who are candidates and said that often factors into a lack of primary poll workers from the parties.

Hamilton County Election Administrator Beth Sheller said she expects no shortage of either poll workers or seasonal workers in her county. She said she gets new poll worker applications in her office every day. LeAnn Angerman, the assistant director of the Lake County Board of Elections, said it has been a bit of a challenge finding enough poll workers but she expected enough people will sign up.

“In the primary election, we put out a Facebook post for some at the last minute and then we got so many that we couldn’t even come close to using them,” Sheller said.

Any registered voter can sign up to be an election worker. Seasonal workers can apply directly through the websites of their county election boards, while poll workers can contact their county party chairs. Vaughn said such workers are key to keeping the electoral process running smoothly.

“They are the backbone of our elections. County clerks, their staffs, the staffs of election boards, they tend to be very small,” she said. “We don’t commit a lot of resources to this most basic function of our democratic process.”