STRENGTHENING THE ELECTION WORKFORCE
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, one in five election officials serving in 2024 will be new. This turnover could lead to a significant loss of institutional knowledge. Many local governments must contend not only with the challenge of finding replacements but also with cultivating a diverse election workforce that mirrors the community it supports.
· Recruiting a diverse workforce,
· Prioritizing education and training,
· Enhancing safety measures, and
· Fostering engagement between local election workers and voters.
The following, written by Coleman Stallworth, research associate at the National Academy of Public Administration, describes some actions being taken to further these efforts:
One of the many groups focused on improved election workforce recruitment is the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) Election Workforce Advisory Council. The council comprises a diverse group of election officials, academics, and industry representatives who understand the challenge of replacing election officials and recognize the importance of creating a sustainable workforce pipeline. Their first effort in this realm is to provide funding for an academic grant program to generate new research findings to inform and enhance efforts to create a sustainable election workforce pipeline.
The federal government also dedicates many resources to poll worker recruitment through the work of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC’s poll worker recruitment guide offers strategies targeted to different populations and communities. Incorporating community-specific outreach techniques can help to create a more inclusive election workforce that reflects the local voting population.
Enhancing Education and Training
Workforce support cannot end after recruitment. States and localities must establish practical, long-lasting election workforce training. One example of this hands-on training is the “Ohio Registered Election Officials (OREO)” program. It offers comprehensive courses to Ohio election officials on topics such as voting equipment and contingency planning. Participants in the program must complete eight three-hour classes, designed to give all levels of election administrators academic and practical insights, before obtaining a certificate.
Another effort is the University of Rhode Island’s work with the EAC to create an “Election Processes Simulations” resource. It offers simulation videos that guide election workers through scenarios they might encounter on election day, such as alleviating long lines and managing stoppages. Broader incorporation of resources like these can contribute to a more knowledgeable and prepared election workforce.
Prioritizing Safety Measures
As election workers are increasingly confronted with threats and attacks in today’s polarized political climate, states and localities must emphasize safety and protection measures. Election workers must have the resources and training necessary to react to threats appropriately. Recognizing the need for legal support and communications help, the Center for Election Innovation and Research’s (CEIR) “Election Official Legal Defense Network” connects election officials with licensed attorneys and communications professionals. Officials fill out a simple and easy-to-use form to access the resource and are connected to a professional that aligns with their requested service.
Fostering Understanding between Election Workers and Voters
Establishing healthy and transparent connections between election workers and voters can alleviate some pressure workers experience during election cycles. The unfortunate reality for some on-the-ground workers is that working in an election can be an unpleasant experience, often due to voters’ ignorance about the election process. Raising public awareness of election workers’ challenges and responsibilities can help cultivate understanding and empathy and reduce misinformation.
The Academy’s “Protect Electoral Integrity Platform” offers accessible election-related resources. It features the Election Working Group’s Call to Action, which outlines proactive steps that any individual can follow to engage more effectively with the election workforce.
Increasing public knowledge through direct involvement is also vital to establishing connections. Numerous election offices nationwide hold “Open House” events to increase transparency and trust. These events allow the public to familiarize themselves with voting machines and learn about the complex processes they do not see on Election Day. When voters better understand what goes on behind the scenes, confidence in the election workforce and election process overall increases