COLUMBUS–Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio cautioned against a recent proposal by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to establish a system for requiring Ohioans to serve as poll workers if called upon by the state. The plan was mentioned at a meeting last week with the Ohio Association of Election Officials and a spokesperson for Brunner confirmed that she plans to introduce legislation.
ACLU of Ohio Litigation Coordinator Gary Daniels said, “It is antithetical to the idea of democracy to force Ohioans to serve as poll workers in an election. An important component of American democracy allows people to participate in civics or not, if they so choose.”
Daniels went on, "Instead of forcing Ohioans to serve as poll workers, the Secretary of State's Office would be better served to embark on a campaign of education to inspire people to be engaged in civics and participate in the political process." Reports of poll workers inconsistently enforcing election laws, incorrectly using voting equipment and widespread mismanagement at polls have marred recent elections and highlighted the need for change in the system in Ohio.
Voter’s rights groups, including the ACLU of Ohio, have long decried the state of poll worker training and staffing in Ohio. Many groups have touted reforms such as more comprehensive training for workers, shorter shifts at polls, better pay and incentives for workers and aggressive recruiting campaigns targeted towards younger voters.
Daniels concluded, "Clearly the Ohio Secretary of State needs to do something about the recruitment and training of poll workers in Ohio. But instead of adopting more sensible and long-requested alternatives, she has proposed a law that would undermine the very values of democracy she should be promoting to all Ohioans."
The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU of Ohio has offices in Cleveland and Cincinnati and community and campus chapters located throughout the state. There are almost 30,000 ACLU members and supporters in Ohio and more than 500,000 nationwide.