[Image courtesy of wrybaby]
In many states nationwide, poll work on Election Day operates like a version of the judicial adversary system – workers from different parties (usually the two major parties) divide the work and ostensibly keep one another “honest” as the day proceeds. That’s increasingly a problem given the decline in formal party affiliation and the growing unease many Americans have with identifying with any party, whatever their views.
In Summit County (Akron) Ohio, the election office is responding to this challenge by hiring and preparing to deploy nonpartisan workers at the polls this fall. The Akron Beacon-Journal has more:
The Summit County elections board will hire non-partisan voters to serve as poll workers.
The elections board will appoint these poll workers per election, rather than for an entire year like the board does with those who are Democrats or Republicans.
The board made this decision Tuesday after Secretary of State Jon Husted last week broke a previous tie vote in favor of the board hiring non-partisan voters. Husted said this is permitted under state law and that the board should “work in a bipartisan manner to decide how and when to appoint qualified, unaffiliated electors.”
For the Nov. 4 election, the board voted to hire 177 non-partisan poll workers, with 39 assigned to precincts and the rest available if needed.
The plan has divided the parties, with Republicans opposing the plan and Democrats supporting it – so the County has (cleverly, in my opinion) created an incentive for both sides to staff the polls themselves if they don’t want the new workers on Election Day:
Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, said the board will attempt to hire as many partisan poll workers as possible each election, but will then choose non-partisan voters to fill in where partisan voters can’t be found.
Of course, there is an expectation that all poll workers will do their jobs in a nonpartisan manner – but this move at least unshackles local election administration from arguably outdated reliance on the two-party system for staffing the polls.
It’ll be interesting to see how many nonpartisan workers the County ends up using – and what, if any, differences are apparent in Summit County before, during and after November 4th.