Scramble for August election brings issues to hard-working poll workers

By: - August 8, 2023 11:30 pm
A voter shows identification to an election judge during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

A voter shows identification to an election judge during primary voting on May 3, 2022 in Lordstown, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

In events that election monitors said were indicative of the scramble to put together an August election rapidly, poll locations across the state had issues ranging from machine malfunctions to removed campaign signs.

But the issues were largely resolved and didn’t amount to significant problems at the polls. Election watchers said the issues didn’t show a systemic problem, but more of a struggle to cobble together an election less than a year after GOP legislators sought to eliminate August elections, then backtracked to put Tuesday’s on the calendar.

“It’s more indicative of an election that boards of elections were not fully prepared for, and that poll workers were not adequately trained for,” said Nazek Hapasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

Voters came out in historically large numbers compared to other August elections, this time to take a stand in support or opposition to Issue 1, which would have raised the voting threshold to amend the Ohio Constitution from 50% + 1 to 60%. It would have also increased the requirement for valid signatures from 44 counties to all 88 counties in the state.

Unofficial results showed voters rejected the measure.

To begin the morning, a Cuyahoga Falls polling location at the Church In the Falls suffered jammed ballots in tabulating machines. While the machine did have to be replaced, voting continued at the location, according to Pete Zeigler, deputy director of the Summit County Board of Elections.

“This was a machine that was being used, both by voters and poll workers, for the first time,” Zeigler told the OCJ. “Even when the one machine was out of order, we implemented emergency protocols.”

As emergency protocol directed, the polling place put ballots cast but not tabulated into orange auxiliary bags until a bipartisan team could scan them into the new machine.

The problem happened at several other locations in Summit County, according to election watchers and the board of election.

Scattered reports of voters being turned away without being told they could vote provisionally or being improperly advised to vote provisionally came throughout the day, though Hapasha attributed that to a need for further pollworker training, not nefarious motives.

“Every poll worker across the state is practically a new poll worker because of the new voting laws,” Hapasha said.

The Ohio General Assembly changed the rules surrounding voter identification, not allowing documentation such as utility bills to serve as proof of residence for Ohio voters.

The legislature also changed early voting, eliminating the Monday before elections, which led to long lines at county boards of elections prior to election day.

Later on in the day, Hapasha said election protection advocates received reports of anti-Issue 1 signs being removed from church precinct locations in New Albany and Powell, while pro-Issue 1 signs were left behind.

Hapasha said the issue was reported to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to tell Secretary of State Frank LaRose “we don’t think it’s right for churches to tip the scale in this way.”

Toward the end of poll hours, reports of two polling locations in Stark County ran out of ballots and asked voters to come back once they received more.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.