Another viewpoint editorial: Poll workers vital to communities

Kokomo Tribune

With less than a month left until the May 7 primary, most people should be informed enough to know their plans for Election Day: where you will vote, when and for whom.

But what if there’s more you could do on Election Day? Many counties in Indiana are reporting a need for poll workers, which is a great way to get involved in your community and help others.

In a bid to attract more and younger election poll workers, Howard County officials this year increased what the job pays. County Clerk Debbie Stewart said the local poll workers are almost exclusively older people.

The only requirements to be a poll worker are you must be 18 and registered to vote. However, anyone age 16 or 17 can work on Election Day in a limited fashion through the state’s Hoosier Hall Pass program.

Daviess County is also increasing pay for those working the polls. There, Clerk Lauren Milton described the increase in pay as “pretty good.”

Both Milton and Martin County Clerk Julie Fithian said they are currently building potential poll worker lists and will continue to do so through Election Day. Haylee Hall, an election clerk in Clark County, said she’s also looking to fill positions, especially clerks, whose primary function is recordkeeping, assisting voters with signing in and helping set up poll pads and sign-in areas.

“Poll workers really help the people on the ground on Election Day,” Hall told the Jeffersonville News and Tribune early this month. “It’s really important that we have them because not only are they vital to making sure that Election Day works, but it’s also a great way for people to get involved in their community.”

But being a poll worker can be a thankless job; it’s a long day — workers arrive before the polls open and stay until they close.

“Poll workers work really hard,” Milton told the Washington Times Herald. “They are required to take a training class, and they work 14 hours on Election Day without leaving the building.”

And while most clerks across the state report no major safety concerns on Election Day, one in six election officials have experienced threats because of their job, and 77% say they feel these threats have increased in recent years, according to a 2022 survey by the Brennan Center for Justice.

As reported by CNHI State Reporter Carson Gerber recently, Knox County Clerk David Shelton was approached by a losing candidate in a local township trustee race who was “cussing me out, calling me every name in the book … saying I’m a liar, cheater and I’ve rigged the whole system.”

The candidate’s son also physically bumped into Shelton twice before the two walked away, according to Shelton. The county prosecutor filed a misdemeanor charge against the pair.

Shelton was one of many elected officials who advocated this year for Senate Enrolled Act 170, which makes it a Level 6 felony to threaten, injure or interfere with election workers carrying out their duties at the polls.

Situations like these might keep people from helping out at their county polling centers. Those who take the time to help their community members exercise their right to vote should be respected and appreciated.

And it’s also up to voters at polling locations to speak up if they see something that doesn’t seem right.

If you have the time available, consider contacting your county clerk’s office to help out your community voting process. And on Election Day, make sure to show appreciation to those who are giving their time to work the polls.