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Cuyahoga BOE Has Enough Workers For Voting Sites, Needs Help In Warehouse

Early voters were lined up well before the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections opened at 8 a.m. on Oct. 6. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]
Early voters were lined up well before the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections opened at 8 a.m. on Oct. 6.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has enough poll workers to open all 295 local polling places on Nov. 3, officials said at Monday’s board meeting.

But there are more jobs to fill at the board’s warehouse, where help is needed unloading vans and carrying ballots and other supplies from local voting locations, Deputy Director Shantiel Soeder said. About 2,000 election worker applications are still pending with the board, she said.

“We will start sending out the message, where we are looking for individuals is here, at the board of elections, the warehouse,” Soeder said, “not just prior to the election, but on Election Night.”

The board on Monday approved nearly $1.2 million to pay almost 4,900 Cuyahoga County poll workers. Close to 6,000 workers have received placements so far, and most have been trained, according to an online dashboard the board maintains.

The roster of poll workers this year includes 413 county employees and 426 attorneys, who can receive continuing legal education credits for their election service.

The board is enlisting high school and college students to take on Election Day jobs, such as working at the loading dock at the board’s warehouse. But concerns about the coronavirus may have reduced that pool of labor, Soeder said.

“We do expect to have to go out to other means,” she said. “We will be starting to reach out to the individuals who have applied to work for our Election Day positions, to help us fill those, to say, here’s what we have available for Election Night if you’re interested in doing this instead.”

Election officials bought three envelope-opening machines to process the high volume of mail-in ballots expected this year. Board members are directing $104,905 from two grants to New Jersey-based OPEX Corporation for the devices.

Known as Model 72 Mail Extraction Desks, the machines can process 3,600 pieces of mail per hour, according to a board memo outlining the purchase. The new desks will allow three people to do work that required many more hands in past election, Director Anthony Perlatti said.

Voters are lining up outside the board as much as as an hour before the doors open for early in-person voting, Perlatti said. As of Friday, 17,532 Cuyahoga County voters had cast ballots in person, more than twice the 7,213 who voted in person by that time in 2016, he said.

Election officials have processed 325,000 valid absentee ballot applications, and voters have returned 102,000 ballots so far, Perlatti said.

“I would say our biggest need right now really is just getting more bodies over to have them to help with all these ballot returns,” he said. “While we have automated a lot, which has been great, there’s still a manual piece to it.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.