State grant helps with poll worker training

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has issued a directive to all county election boards to provide mandatory training for all poll workers for the upcoming Nov. 4 general election.

But that training is nothing new for Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana election officials. They provide training every year to thousands of poll workers.

“I always felt it was important to train the poll workers,” Mahoning County Board of Elections Director Joyce Kale Pesta said.

Under state law, training for returning poll workers only needs to be done every three years, while new poll worker training is conducted every year. Husted’s directive requires training for all poll workers this year, whether they are 20-year veterans or first-timers.

Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for Husted’s office, said the mandatory training directive last was issued for the 2012 presidential election. It was issued this year because of the Ohio governor’s race, which generally increases voter turnout.

To help defray some of the training costs, Husted’s office has given each county a grant based on the number of registered voters that live there.

Mahoning County is receiving $16,445.62. According to the Secretary of State’s website, Mahoning County had 167,002 registered voters as of July 14.

Kale Pesta said the money is put into the general fund because that is how the Board of Elections is funded. However, that amount will be earmarked for poll worker training.

She said Mahoning County has 273 precincts and four workers are needed for each, meaning 1,200 workers are needed for each election, regardless of turnout. Since the poll workers are paid $20 each for the two-hour training session, the grant covers $5 in training costs for each worker, with the rest of the money coming from the general fund.

Kale Pesta said poll workers are paid a base rate of $127 on Election Day, but precinct managers are paid slightly more. That pay is for a 13-hour day or more, since polls in Mahoning County open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

She said new poll workers are always needed, especially in November because many of their regular workers go to Florida for the winter. Training will begin Oct. 1, with three classes per day to accommodate a variety of work schedules.

For more information on how to become a poll worker in Mahoning County, click here.

In Trumbull County, every poll worker is required to attend a 45-minute training session the week before the election. New poll workers and precinct managers also are required to attend a two-hour training session the month before the election. That training is more extensive than the state-mandated training.

Trumbull County Board of Elections Director Kelly Pallante said the county has been provided a grant every two years in the past to help with training. This year’s grant amount of $14,228.73 covers 2013 and 2014. The county had 144,490 registered voters as of July 14.

Pallante said there are 208 precincts and four workers are needed for each, meaning 832 poll workers are needed for each election. She said the hourly pay rate is based on the federal minimum wage, with workers making between $121 and $156, depending on their specific duties. Presiding judges also get mileage for two round trips from the polling location to the Board of Elections office.

She said the county has been trying to re-establish a more permanent base of poll workers because when the county started using touch-screen voting in 2005, many of the more seasoned workers did not want to make the switch. Pallante said Trumbull County does have a regular pool of poll workers and 50 to 60 high school seniors to assist on Election Day when there are last-minute cancellations.

However, the county is always looking for new workers. For more information, including a detailed video, click here.

Columbiana County Board of Elections Director Adam Booth said 356 poll workers are needed for the county’s 84 precincts. He said training is held during October with morning, afternoon and evening sessions available. There also is a makeup session offered on a weekend for those that cannot make the weekday training.

Pay rate for poll workers is between $101 and $120, depending on their duties. He said the county trains more workers than are actually needed so they have a pool of substitutes in case of call-offs.

Columbiana County is receiving $6,436.56 from the state grant. There were 65,362 registered voters as of July 14.

For more information on becoming a poll worker in Columbiana County, click here.

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