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Elections protected against ‘rogue’ poll workers, experts say

Despite worries that “rogue” poll workers who believe elections are rigged could try to infiltrate the election process, experts say safeguards will protect the election process in November.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, a nonprofit law and public policy institute, and All Voting is Local, a nonprofit organization working to remove barriers to the ballot, released state specific guides explaining the rules in place to prevent a poll worker from going “rogue and disrupting the voting process.”

Multiple media reports have exposed efforts in some places to infiltrate the election process by recruiting election deniers to serve as poll workers, powered by myths that the 2020 election was stolen, a statement from the Brennan Center for Justice said.

Michigan, for instance, is preparing for the possibility that there could be poll workers who believe former Donald Trump’s lies that the election was stolen.

“While this is something we should be keeping an eye out for, and it’s a shame that this kind of recruiting is going on, we think there are rules in the place to keep it from going too far,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, director of the voting rights program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

The majority of poll workers also participate for the “right reasons,” Morales-Doyle said in an interview.

“They believe in our system and they want to keep it secure,” he said.

Guidelines for workers

But to address concerns that some could try to infiltrate the election process, the center decided to publish guides on the laws and procedures in the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio and what constraints are in place.

“We want to reassure people that states have laws in place already that constrain the role poll workers play,” Morales-Doyle said.

Nevada’s election board officers, or poll workers, are responsible for opening and closing polling places, checking in voters, verifying voters, assisting voters and preserving peace and good order at the polls, the guide says.

To be an election board officer, a person must be appointed by the county. They must all be registered to vote in Nevada, cannot be a candidate running for a race in the election and cannot be related to a candidate.

High school students ages 16 and 17 can also serve as trainees provided they obtain parental or guardian approval and permission. To ensure fairness and the nonpartisan execution of election duties, the election board officers for any polling location cannot all be from the same political party.

They must also be trained in how to operate voting machines. Nevada counties also generally require that election board officers take an oath. Anyone who helps prepare “mechanical recording devices” must take an oath to perform their duties “honestly and faithfully.” If they fail to comply, they could be charged a penal bond of $10,000, the guide says.

Rules for the job

Poll workers cannot intimidate, bribe or harass voters, or expose or publish a fact about another person with the intention of compelling that person to vote a certain way. They also cannot electioneer within 100 feet of a polling location, or campaign for or against a candidate, ballot question or party.

Poll workers must also complete certain tasks in teams to ensure fairness and impartiality.

If a county clerk uses an electronic device to verify signatures on mail ballots, multiple poll workers who cannot be from the same political party must manually review the signatures. When a poll worker rejects a ballot, all poll workers at the polling location must sign the envelope.

Some counties require pairs of election workers for other duties. Washoe County, for instance, requires two poll workers from different political parties to help a voter who seeks assistance in the voting booth.

“This is a new concern we face, and it is a real concern, but we want to make sure that we’re not too alarmist about it,” Morales-Doyle said.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah.

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