Friday, March 28, 2008

For Future Reference

A few weeks ago, I got upset at my polling place. I wrote about it, people read about it, some folks talked to me directly about it or left comments on stories elsewhere.

One thing that became apparent to me is that something I thought was widely known, at least among the subset of people who have an interest in elections in Ohio, remains a source of confusion to many. So, here is the law as it appears in the Ohio Revised code, Title XXXV "ELECTIONS" Chapter 3501: "Election Procedure; Election Officials, in 3501.01 Election procedure - election officials definitions:

(AA) “Photo identification” means a document that meets each of the following requirements:

(1) It shows the name of the individual to whom it was issued, which shall conform to the name in the poll list or signature pollbook.

(2) It shows the current address of the individual to whom it was issued, which shall conform to the address in the poll list or signature pollbook, except for a driver’s license or a state identification card issued under section 4507.50 of the Revised Code, which may show either the current or former address of the individual to whom it was issued, regardless of whether that address conforms to the address in the poll list or signature pollbook.

(3) It shows a photograph of the individual to whom it was issued.

(4) It includes an expiration date that has not passed.

(5) It was issued by the government of the United States or this state.

Effective Date: 12-23-2002; 05-02-2006; 2007 HB119 09-29-2007


Paul said...


I wish you had written the manual we pollworkers in Franklin County use as a reference. This is a case where the law as written is clearer than the manual, which takes about a dozen pages to describe the ID rules and still manages to make it confusing.

I started working in the polls for the 2004 Presidential election, when the county BOE put out the word that it was hundreds of workers short. Barely more than half of the Americans vote anyway, and a tiny fraction of those are willing to serve as pollworkers. Those two facts are a big part of the problem.

I've worked in every election since, in polling places ranging from the farm country where I live to some of the wealthiet neighborhoods in the county. Here's some of what I've observed:

a) There are many people who have been pollworkers for years who have stepped down because the constant changing of rules and equipment in the past four years has gotten to be too much to deal with. The voting process used to be simple, but is not any more. And it changes every election.

b) We have hardly any turnout for most elections, and then everyone shows up for the Presidential elections. It's a small wonder that the BOE has problems getting the right amount of capacity in the right places.

c) The more educated and affluent the neighborhood, the nastier the treatment given to the pollworkers. The voters come in expecting johnnie-on-the-spot service from folks with a couple of hours of training, procedures that have to be rigorously followed, and limited resources. Yet they treat us like bozos if they have to wait, or if we take extra time to make sure we're handling unusual situations correctly.

At one polling place I worked recently, in an established affluent neighborhood of mostly senior citizens, we had oodles of people come in with ID problems, such as names which didn't match the poll book, and sometimes no ID at all. They would ask "where's Delores?" (false name). We found out that Delores had been the Presiding Judge at this polling place for decades. She had lived in this neighborhood all that time, and knew the voters as friends and neighbors. But Delores had died unfortunately. Turns out she was letting all these folks vote anyway to save them any inconvenience - in some cases for years. We were not a popular crew. I'm glad the turnout was low.

By the way, every single pollworker on that crew had a college degree and an impressive CV. What's wrong with our system when intelligent and accomplished pollworkers have difficulty carrying out the voting process in a neighborhood of intelligent and accomplished voters?

bonobo said...

I've seen some of the training materials. That's part of my motivation in posting this. I've tried to repeat over and over - If I thought the problem was the pollworkers, I'd be pushing for better recruitment. Not that staffing is no longer a problem, but as you said we have entire precincts stocked with college grads with impressive CVs. I was initially mad at some unknown person at the Franklin Co. BOE for training people (who really want to get things right) to do things incorrectly. As it turns out, it seems that there are many more people than one faceless Franklin County trainer who should know the law but don't. At this point I don't care who's to blame (Blackwell, Brunner, Damshroder, the state legislature, whoever), I just want to make sure that people who are entitled to vote get to vote, and that they have their votes counted. 2004 was a complete tragedy in the city of Columbus (once again, not the fault of the pollworkers, but the fault of a poorly conceived machine distribution plan combined with excessive municipal issues and an inability or unwillingness to respond to the unfolding disaster). I just don't want to see disenfranchisement like that happen again.