Fear of contracting COVID-19 has led many poll workers to opt out of working during the general election on Nov. 3.
Ohio needs 35,000 poll workers statewide to ensure voters do not experience long lines and closed locations seen in other states during spring primaries.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio’s chief elections officer, is determined to see that does not happen. He is asking the state’s 43,911 lawyers to fill the anticipated gap. Ohio is believed to be the first state in the nation to ask lawyers to serve as volunteer poll workers in exchange for needed continuing legal education credits. Lawyers are required to earn 24 CLE credits every two years.
The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously approved the novel plan last month agreeing to a one-time rule change to licensure renewal requirements for attorneys. The adjustment will grant four hours of credit toward licensure renewal for those who are trained and work all day on Nov. 3. It’s not a typical eight-hour day either, with polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Poll workers are expected to arrive at 5:30 a.m. to ready the polling place and stay on after polls close to ensure ballots and voting apparatus are sent to the county board offices for counting.
To determine the number of needed poll workers, Mr. LaRose asked each of the 88 county boards of election in the state to survey their current poll workers to determine their willingness to work on Election Day. The deadline for response was Aug. 1. It appeared there would be a need statewide for 15,000 to 20,000 poll workers to ensure smooth in-person voting.
Mr. LaRose said attorneys are suited to serve as poll workers because of their attention to detail and ability to quickly grasp the nuances of responsibility needed on the front lines of our democratic process.
Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said this would be an excellent way for lawyers to give back to the state by filling an urgent need.
Mr. LaRose also took steps to encourage the 7.77 million registered voters in Ohio to consider absentee voting. This process allows residents to fill out ballots from home and either mail or drop the completed ballots off at their respective boards of elections. Ohio has offered absentee ballots for more than 20 years with no-fault absentee voting since 2006. Absentee ballot request forms already are being sent by election boards to all registered voters.
Mr. LaRose said that he wants people to take advantage of the absentee option if they are apprehensive about going to the polls. There is concern among some residents that their ballot could become lost after it leaves their hands. This is just one reason behind the push to recruit poll workers including attorneys to make voting safe for all of those who want to vote in-person Nov. 3.
Cuyahoga County Board of Elections relies on 4,000 poll workers and 70 percent have said they will work on Election Day.
Kudos to Mr. LaRose, the Ohio Supreme Court and election officials statewide for the extraordinary efforts they are taking to ensure that any registered voter who wants to safely take part in the General Election is able to do so.