Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Clerk rolls out new poll worker recruitment efforts

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Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey reported to the Election Board what she’s doing to avoid the mistakes that led to a shortage of poll workers on election day, thousands of uncounted absentee ballots, and delayed results in the November 2018 general election.

Following reports on the causes of Porter County’s election failures from Ball State University’s nonpartisan Voting Systems Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) and Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Bailey made a presentation to the Election Board at its meeting Thursday explaining what’s being done differently in her office’s preparations for the upcoming primary.

Bailey began by saying she’s addressing the issue of poll worker recruitment and training with a focus on attracting new workers and recapturing those who have worked in the past.

“We thought it was important for everyone to realize that we do admit the failings in 2018,” Bailey said. “it was not the poll workers’ fault. They needed better training. They needed better communication, and we’re trying to do that this year.”

Bailey said she needs 306 workers. She reported that 83 people had applied via the website or in-person at the time of the meeting, and Porter County Republican Party Chairman Michael Simpson had provided her with a list of 90 more interested workers.

Porter County Democrat Party Chairman Jeff Chidester promised her a list on Monday, March 25, well in advance of the State’s mid-April deadline for chairmen to provide their election day worker lists. Both Chairmen have provided their lists of workers for early voting and the travel board ahead of the deadline.

Bailey said she asked Simpson and Chidester to have their election day lists ready early because she wants to meet every hurdle well in advance of required deadlines. By law, county party chairmen are supposed to provide lists of interested poll workers, and the Election Board (or its designee, which is, in this case, Bailey) makes up the difference if there are not enough.

A repeated accusation from the November general election was that the party chairs didn’t provide enough workers. Bailey said Simpson and Chidester are working with her this time. “They are both being accommodating and reaching those early deadlines.”

Bailey said her office is making use of the Expo Center, Memorial Opera House, and Porter County Realtors email lists to get the word out about working the polls. She has also reached out to electronic news outlets like PortageLife and ValpoLife, and local chambers of commerce, and is using social media, including paid boosted Facebook ads. She estimates she has reached approximately 11,500 people through emails alone.

The poll worker page on the Porter County Website has been updated, with links for interested people to contact their party chairmen and updated information about poll worker responsibilities and compensation. The site is

Bailey said any questions submitted through the website’s contact form will be addressed within two days.

Bailey will be having mandatory in-person training sessions for which workers are paid $50. The training will last three hours and be available on a variety of dates at a variety of times at different locations throughout the County.

Board member David Bengs said many of these changes coincide with the recommendations from VSTOP and the Secretary of State. Bailey even said she set some of changes into motion before the report was released.

“I met with the Secretary of State before we had a chance to look at the report,” Bailey said. “When I sat down with the VSTOP team, the Secretary of State and the rest of the team, I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of things they had mentioned were things we were already moving toward.”

The VSTOP team recommended the County form its own poll worker manual, keep a list of reliable back-up workers, train all workers in person, and limit recruitment efforts to the Clerk’s office and party chairmen.

VSTOP’s also recommended the Clerk create a well-defined, written protocol for handling absentee ballots, create an updated election checklist, and hire additional staff for the election.

Bailey noted that the new equipment the County recently purchased includes a machine that will be used to count all absentee ballots at a central location and that she has brought on two new people to do election work.

Bailey said she is also cooperating with VSTOP’s recommendation that they be allowed to observe the next two elections and conduct risk-limiting audits of any races with margins of less than five percent. In January, VSTOP conducted an audit on the 2018 general election, and Bailey reported she changed the way ballots are stored to make future audits simpler.

In addition to hearing Bailey’s presentation, the Board instructed Board Attorney Monica Conrad to send a notice to 16 political candidates and politicians notifying them of their failure to file end-of-year campaign finance reports. The Board also plans to revisit its policy on handling delinquency in filing those reports.

The Board welcomed its new Democrat appointee David Welter, a Chesterton resident and Valparaiso University law professor who fills J.J. Stankewicz’s spot as Board President.

Stankiewicz resigned Monday following the release of a video of him yelling at Bailey that prompted 15 Porter County Democrat politicians to call for his resignation. Stankiewicz was also named in the Secretary of State’s letter as one of the three people most responsible for the November 2018 election failures.

Bailey mentioned some important dates. Campaign finance reports are due April 22, and the public test of election equipment will be April 8, at a yet to be determined time.

The last day to register to vote is April 8. Early voting starts April 9.



Posted 3/26/2019






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