Poll worker attire policies come into question

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

Even though some counties around Ohio are re-evaluating policies related to poll workers’ attire, Lawrence County is sticking to its traditional methods.

Election officials in Dayton are rethinking a policy that allows poll workers to wear company or organization logos on their clothing, after an anti-abortion group said it planned to recruit people to work the polls and wear T-shirts bearing the name “Dayton Right to Life.”

The plan has outraged voter rights advocates, who note that political signs, literature and language are prohibited within 100 feet of polling places on Election Day, and that elections workers aren’t allowed to discuss candidates or issues with voters.

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“We have no dress code,” said Eric Bradshaw, deputy director of the Lawrence County Board of Elections. “We really don’t care, as long as it’s anything other than election related, a controversial issue or politically related — like a candidate’s name. Even voters cannot come in with political stuff on.”

If someone walked into the polls in with a T-shirt that had a political message, they would be asked to leave or to put something over it, he said.

A shortage of poll workers prompted the Montgomery County Board of Elections’ “Day of Democracy” program, which allowed companies and organizations to put forth their logo-wearing employees as elections workers.

The idea was that companies and organizations would be more willing to recruit employees or members to work the polls if it could get a little free advertising in return.

Union members, for example, wore shirts bearing their union’s logo while working the May 8 primary.

“Everybody has problems getting pole workers,” Bradshaw said. “They’ve even thought about doing a jury pool to get pole workers. The only problems we’ve had here is our pole workers are getting older and like everywhere in the country, it’s hard to get younger people involved.”

Even with all the changes in technology, he said that the older poll workers have handled the changes terrifically.

“I just hope everybody shows up to have a fair election with everyone and not just 20 percent of the voters speaking,” Bradshaw said.