A bipartisan bill seeks to shield personal information about Ohio poll workers

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Boards of elections throughout Ohio are saying it’s getting more difficult to find enough poll workers to staff polling places in recent elections, because of concerns about violence against them.

A seated poll worker assists a standing voter in Columbus.
A poll worker assists a voter in Columbus. [Daniel Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]
Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Elections Officials, called the shortage of poll worker “a national epidemic.”

“In Ohio, we’re losing 10% to 15% a year with our within our election community,” Ockerman said. “And we know that in some states it’s as high as 50% since 2020.”

Ockerman is part of a new bipartisan national task force aimed at addressing election official workforce issues. The task force includes representatives from the Ohio Association of Election Officials and Ohio State University. It’s looking into how to attract and retain poll workers.

Ockerman said it’s important to recruit poll workers who will stay on for multiple elections to gain valuable experience. He said one reason for the departure of those veteran workers is an uptick in threats of violence against poll workers in recent years.

“The good news is it’s not as bad in Ohio as maybe some other states like Arizona or Pennsylvania. I mean, serious death threats,” Ockerman said. “But I’ve been told by my members that people will follow them home in their cars and and, you know, harass them. And that’s really unfortunate. So we do need to think about ways we can protect these people that are doing this vital, vital work.”

Ohio lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are taking notice. And two have teamed up to put forward a new bill to provide some protections for poll workers.

“They shouldn’t take their life in their own hands because they are trying to conduct free and fair elections,” said Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus). He’s sponsoring a bill with Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) that would safeguard privacy and protect personal information of poll workers and elections officials.

“We need to make sure that we are doing what we can to protect their privacy, their home address, so that they can be as safe as possible,” Gavarone said.

The bipartisan bill is new and hasn’t yet been assigned to a committee yet. And it won’t be passed in time to be in effect for the Nov. 7 election.