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Uncertainty about primary dates over lack of constitutional maps is hurting poll worker recruitment

A poll worker helps a voter cast a ballot at Franklin County's early voting center during the last weekend of early in-person voting on March 15, 2020. The primary was supposed to be on March 17, but just before the polls were to open on March 17, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered them closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadline to return ballots was extended.
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A poll worker helps a voter cast a ballot at Franklin County's early voting center during the last weekend of early in-person voting on March 15, 2020. The primary was supposed to be on March 17, but just before the polls were to open on March 17, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered them closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadline to return ballots was extended.

Ohio is headed toward two primaries this year – the statewide and congressional offices on May 3, and the House and Senate candidates later. The uncertainty is making it hard for local boards of elections to recruit the poll workers they need to run those primaries.

Local boards are in dire straits when it comes to getting poll workers, said Aaron Ockerman with the Ohio Association of Elections Officials.

“Candidly, it becomes a concern with this notion of a bifurcated primary, because not only are we asking these people to, you know, presumably work on May 3, we're going to have to ask them to come back again on August 2. And I know that's a real concern as well," Ockerman said. "When it comes to poll worker recruitment, what do you tell people who say, 'I want to vote in the primary, but I don't know when it is'? I don't know what's going to happen.”

Ockerman said boards are still putting together numbers for the Secretary of State, but he said they’re thousands of poll workers short with just a few weeks till the May primary.

And there's no date set for the primary for state legislative offices, because three sets of maps have been ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Ohio Supreme Court. A fourth set of maps is being challenged. Secretary of State Frank LaRose has said a primary for legislative offices would have to be held before August 2 to avoid conflicting with deadlines for the November general election.

A possible date of May 24 was mentioned in federal court, but Ockerman said that would have to be a full primary, because there would be no time for elections officials to prepare a vote for just the legislative offices so soon after the May 3 primary.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.