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Board of Elections recruits new poll workers

May 15, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

With nearly 72 percent of all poll workers in Washington County over 60 years of age, the Washington County Board of Elections is hosting a series of informative classes aimed at recruiting new faces this month.

Of the 220 poll workers required to run an election in Washington County, 158 of them are over the age of 60, according to figures provided by the board. There are only 44 poll workers from age 20 to 59.

A series of five workshops will be held at Washington County Public Libraries this month, beginning at 10 a.m. today in Marietta, to cover questions about the election and recruit more poll workers.

Additional workshops will be held in Barlow at 10 a.m. Wednesday, in Belpre at 10 a.m. Thursday, in New Matamoras at 2 p.m. Thursday and in Beverly at 10 a.m. May 31. All meetings take place at branches of the Washington County Public Library.

"My objective is to go after new poll workers to get new faces into our system," explained Peggy Byers, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections.

Since each election requires 220 poll workers, Byers said she would like to develop a list that has 260 possible names on it.

Fact Box

If you go

What: Public information sessions on the upcoming election, including how to become a poll worker.

When and where: 10 a.m. today at the Marietta public library, 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Barlow library, 10 a.m. Thursday at the Belpre library, 2 p.m. Thursday at the New Matamoras library and 10 a.m. May 31 at the Beverly library.

For information: Washington County Board of Elections, 374-6828.

That number would allow for people to get sick and call off at the last minute, without reducing one of the 56 precincts below the required four poll workers, Byers said.

"We always manage to get it filled, but it can be a worry if we're going to make it or not," Byers said.

To be eligible to become a Precinct Election Official (PEO), residents must be at least 17 years of age and registered to vote in the county in which they plan to work as a PEO. Other requirements for poll workers include that they cannot be running as a candidate for election and they cannot have been convicted of a felony.

Susanne Bock, 67, of Marietta, has been a PEO in Muskingum Township at the Devola Volunteer Fire Department since 2000.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Bock said. "It's our democracy at work. It's just so awesome to be a part of it."

While the majority of poll workers in Washington County are older, there is a program started by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted entitled "Youth at the Booth" to entice high school seniors to serve as poll workers.

Through the program, there were 22 poll workers in Washington County in the March primary election under the age of 20.

James Irvin, 72, of Little Hocking, has been a PEO in Decatur Township for six years. A year ago, he worked with a Belpre High School student in the Youth at the Booth program.

"I thought that was fantastic," Irvin said.

Byers said the biggest challenge in recruiting poll workers is the time constraint.

A PEO typically works 14 hours on the day of the election. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m., with election officials required to be there at least a half hour prior to opening and after closing, Byers said.

Poll workers earn $101.50 per day and $10 for the training class at the board of elections. Presiding judges at the precincts earn $111.50 per day and $30 for the training.

"We have the greatest system in the world," Irvin said. "I just try to do my part to keep it going."



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