Civic Engagement and Repercussions for Well-Run, Trusted Elections
The LEOs echoed a common sentiment among election officials: People who are skeptical of election accuracy and security might consider serving as poll workers. These individuals often become valuable poll workers and help bolster the legitimacy of elections in the eyes of their communities. The LEOs’ comments on this subject were strikingly similar, especially considering the diversity of regions and sizes of jurisdictions they represent.
"[Poll workers] are my election partners ... I don’t have to get on Facebook and defend what we’re doing” because poll workers are speaking up on behalf of elections in the community.
—Tammy Smith, administrator of elections, Wilson County, Tenn.
Every LEO emphasized that some of their best poll workers began as skeptics of the accuracy of elections. These individuals often became poll workers because they wanted to see for themselves what was going on behind the scenes. While many of these individuals have come to trust elections in their counties, LEOs report hearing comments like, “I definitely trust elections here in my county, but when it comes to that other county, or that big city, or that other state, I’m not so sure.” Some LEOs work to assuage these concerns by explaining that training requirements are fairly uniform across the state, or that they know the LEOs in the “other” jurisdiction and can promise that their practices are just as legitimate as those in the poll worker’s home county. Nevertheless, this type of skepticism persists.
However, some LEOs we spoke to noted that poll workers who are particularly aggressive about their skepticism may set other poll workers on edge.
A couple LEOs reported concerns about the possibility of poll workers who could take some nefarious action “from the inside.” One LEO requires poll workers to sign a code of conduct to help guard against these issues; it has been well received by poll workers in that jurisdiction.
Some of the LEOs we spoke to foster good relationships with groups in their communities that are skeptical of election processes and accuracy. These groups can become sources of poll worker recruits. Those new poll workers are likely to have their own faith in elections restored, and can pass that trust along to members of their communities. While LEOs reported being happy to speak with these groups and answer their questions, they noted that the groups also need to be respectful of the time and effort the LEOs spend building these relationships.
LEOs see poll workers as dedicated, helpful individuals who not only keep elections running smoothly but also can explain and defend the trustworthiness of local elections in settings ranging from social media to public meetings. One LEO said one of the reasons poll workers have so much respect for and dedication to elections is that the LEO spends time investing in poll workers. This requires extra work for the LEO, but it pays off when elections run smoothly and safely.