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Cuyahoga County BOE Will Allow Fewer Staffers At Some Polls For Primary

Early, in-person voting is underway at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
A mural of the words "Vote Cuyahoga County Board of Elections"

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections voted to allow some polling stations’ classifications to reduce staffing requirements as part of the effort to meet staffing needs ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

The board is usually required to have four precinct election officials (PEO) per precinct. In Cuyahoga County, the 975 precincts require around 3,900 PEOs, said BOE Director Tony Perlatti.

The county is close to the PEOs needed, Perlatti said, but staffers could drop out before the election, leaving polling locations without enough staff. But a provision in the law could still allow for the county to meet its requirements, he said.

The provision, approved by the board Monday morning, allows for a polling location serving more than one precinct to reduce the required number to two PEOs per precinct.

“The day before the election, Election Day, you will have individuals who call off, they’re sick, or something comes up and they can’t make it,” Perlatti said. “I may not meet the 3,900, so I want to be able to have a formula in place so I can still comply with code.”

New employees are still signing up to work, Perlatti said, thanks in part to messaging from state and local officials highlighting the importance of the election. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will hold a press conference Monday at 2 p.m. and will be joined by Gov. Mike DeWine.

“We have been moving pieces around to make sure we have sufficient workforce in all of our polling locations,” Perlatti said. “Also, though, we have had an influx of new workers in the past few days.”

The coronavirus has created some difficulty finding staff, Perlatti said, but the county anticipated this year’s elections would be difficult to staff prior to that.

Moving the primary up to March took away some previous staff who were still vacationing in the winter months, he said, and coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day this year created more conflicts due to family obligations. The BOE is also competing with the U.S. Census for workers, Perlatti said, and the Census offers higher wages.

“So we had all those things in place before the coronavirus happened, and then that’s just another layer on top of it,” Perlatti said. “We do have some individuals who, out of their own health concerns, decided not to work this election.”

The board has additional PEO training scheduled throughout Monday.