Franklin County, Ohio builds public/private partnerships to recruit poll workers

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Franklin County, Ohio is home to the Ohio State University, which has the third largest enrollment among public universities in the United States. The state capital, Columbus, is also the Franklin County seat. The Franklin County Board of Elections serves about 803,000 registered voters. They recruited 3,600 poll workers to staff 405 polling locations for the 2014 General Election.

Staff members recruit poll workers at the Ohio State University. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara.

Staff members recruit poll workers at the Ohio State University. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara.

The Franklin County Board of Elections partners with local employers to recruit great poll workers. In August 2014, they received an Election Center Professional Practices Program award for their poll worker recruitment program, Champions of Democracy.

A persistent opportunity

Poll workers are on the front lines of democracy on Election Day. They enforce voter identification laws, verify a person’s registration status and address, confirm the correct ballot style for voters, and operate voting equipment. Poll workers have the awesome opportunity to increase the public’s confidence in elections and government. That's why effective poll worker recruitment and training programs are so important in local election administration.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) states that recruiting poll workers is a persistent challenge for local election administrators. The PCEA recommends in their final report that jurisdictions should recruit private and public sector employees, as well as students, to become poll workers.

Better citizens, better employees

The Champions of Democracy program expands the recruitment pool of poll workers by partnering with the private and public workforce in Franklin County. In regards to recruiting and training excellent employees, companies are already doing the heavy lifting. Many of the qualities that make a person an excellent employee also make them an excellent poll worker.

“As the election process becomes more sophisticated, it’s critical that poll workers be able to understand and apply new technologies. Private sector employees are an excellent source of trained, adaptable, and technology-savvy workers to meet this need,” says Nicholas K. Akins, President and CEO of American Electric Power.
Ohio State students experiment with voting equipment. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara

Ohio State students experiment with voting equipment. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara

With the help of generous employers who encourage their employees to work the polls on Election Day, the program has recruited and trained hundreds of poll workers.

“Champions of Democracy has given us a reliable source of poll workers so dedicated to the job that eight out of ten are with us from one year to the next. That stability is a key factor for holding successful elections in our county,” explans Dana Walch, Deputy Director at the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Election results can affect people both personally and professionally. The experience of working the polls on Election Day strengthens ties to the communities where people live and work.

“It was a long day: we worked from 5:30 a.m. until 9:15 p.m. This is the type of job where attention to detail is critical. At the end of the night, we were wiped, but our team enjoyed each other so much we vowed to come back just to have the privilege of working together again. In the end, I learned a lot, had a great time, and will definitely be volunteering again. Thanks so much for the opportunity,” expresses Diamond C. Zimmerman, Senior Administrative Assistant at the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

Champions in action

The Franklin County Board of Elections successfully engages the business community by creating partnerships based on shared values. Both the Board and local employers recognize that fair and accurate elections contribute to a healthy democracy and community.

Champions of Democracy is designed to:

  • Recruit private sector employees to become poll workers
  • Train poll workers at their workplace
  • Give non-registered employees the opportunity to register to vote

Election staff commits time and resources to developing outreach materials that educate local employers about the benefits of the program. They set up a display at a workplace and are available to talk with employees and answer questions. Staff also runs a mock election where employees have the opportunity to use the Franklin County voting machines.

Employees who commit to working the polls on Election Day are offered a training class at their office, which saves them a trip across town. In addition to recruiting poll workers, election staff helps people register to vote and update their voter registration.

A citizen completes a form at an Ohio State voter registration drive. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara.

A citizen completes a form at an Ohio State voter registration drive. Photo courtesy of Christine A. Fulara.

All in all, the Champions of Democracy program connects people and businesses to local government while demystifying the voting process. 

Interested in more tips on poll worker recruitment? Check out the Election Assistance Commission’s 6 tips on employing effective poll workers.


How is your office working with the community to recruit and retain great poll workers? Let us know at hello@techandciviclife.org.