JoCo on the Go Podcast: Be an election worker
On JoCo on the Go, episode #132, we walk through what you need to know about the 2022 election season. One of the key pieces to the Johnson County Election Office running successful elections is the election workers who contribute their time and talents to this important effort. Hear from Johnson County Election Commissioner Fred Sherman share what voters and election workers need to know in 2022. Roeland Park resident Susie Martin has served as an election worker since 2016 and will tell you why she is hooked on this opportunity, and what she loves about it.
Look for JoCo on the Go where you regularly listen to podcasts.
|01:43||The races ahead in 2022 and when you need to be registered to vote|
|07:30||The importance of volunteer election workers, the tasks they perform and how many are needed for an election|
|09:30||One election worker's experiences|
|11:29||What is involved in being an election volunteer?|
|16:13||Changes to advance voting in 2022|
|20:17||The safety and security of elections in Johnson County|
|22:19||How to volunteer as an election worker|
Jody Hanson 0:01
For those who are eligible and registered, casting a vote on Election Day is an important civic duty. And just as important is the work of the Johnson County Election Office who runs our county's elections. While they have expert and dedicated staff in that office, they can't do it alone. On this episode, hear from Election Commissioner Fred Sherman, who will walk us through this year's election cycle and everything you need to know about being an election worker, including why the public's role is so crucial. You will also hear from an election worker and get her take on why she contributes her time and talents to help ensure successful elections in our county.
Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Jody Hanson 0:53
Thanks for joining us on JoCo on the Go. I'm your host Jody Hanson, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County Government. We have two countywide elections on the calendar for 2022, a primary election in August and a general election in November. Those may seem far away. But the election office is already hard at work planning those elections and recruiting residents to help ensure our elections take place securely and successfully. Election workers are so important for this process. Joining us today our Election Commissioner Fred Sherman and Susie Martin, a Roeland Park resident who not only serves as an election worker but helps train other election workers. Thank you both for being here today.
Fred Sherman 1:36
Hello, there. Thanks for having us today. I look forward to this conversation.
Susie Martin 1:40
Glad to be here.
Jody Hanson 1:43
Fred, let's start with you. We know 2022 isn't a presidential election year, but we still have some important races. So if you could please talk to us about the year's election calendar, what types of races we can expect on the ballot? And then maybe the timing of when people need to be registered in order to vote in those elections?
Fred Sherman 2:02
Okay, great question. And actually, this is going to be a pretty active year from an election standpoint, even though it isn't a presidential year. It's an even number of years. So it is one of our bigger election cycle years. This is going to be the year where we do a lot of statewide races in terms of the governor's race, Attorney General, Secretary of State, those who statewide races. Obviously, congressional rep is up for voting every two years. So that will be another race that we have on the ballot. And then also the Kansas House races will also be on the ballot. So that those are kind of the primary statewide main races there for consideration in 2022. We also will have some local Johnson County races. The county chairman position is also up for reelection this year. And then we have three basically, border districts of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, it's going to be up for election this year. So a number of pretty important races on the ballot. Currently, there also is one constitutional amendment that's that's been passed and will be on the August primary ballot on August 2. As we record this podcast, I'll say that the Kansas legislations also in the midst of working on a number of bills, and some of those bills also proposes some additional questions or constitutional amendments. So as the Kansas legislative process plays out in the coming weeks or months ahead, there could be some additional items either on the August ballot and/or the November ballot. So that's kind of the broad overview of elections in terms of what's to be considered. There also could be some additional measures on it if any of the cities or school districts or any other jurisdictions wants to put a question or measure on the ballot. So stay tuned, there's still more to come from that standpoint. In terms of calendars and deadlines, there are a number of deadlines. Probably the key one for this year is going to be June 1, and that June 1 is a pretty important date, maybe not necessarily from the voters, but from a number of standpoints. June 1 Is the filing deadline. So all the candidates have until June 1 to file. That's also the deadline for any candidates who have already filed to withdraw from the ballot. So even though currently we have, for example, the chairman race or the county commission race, we currently have four candidates, so that will trigger a primary race in August. There could be some additional candidates file for that or other races, or there could be candidates that outgrew withdraw that's already filed from that standpoint. One of the other interesting components here this year is this is a redistricting year, so every 10 years with the Census numbers that come out, and they were released this last year. So Kansas, the state legislation's going through a process of redistricting, the state for both Congressional Representative districts, as well as State House and Senate districts. So some of these Kansas House members may not know which race they're going to be in until that redistricting process is concluded. And again, we hope that that's completed well before the June 1 deadline. So that June 1 deadline is also very important for voters. Because it's also the date, if you want to change your party affiliation, you can do so by June 1. And to do so you need to re-register to vote to affiliate with a party. So basically, every two years, this August primary is the only time that a voter really has to declare, and we really have an interest in terms of their party affiliation. Because this August ballot is really the nominating process for the two major parties here in Kansas. There are three recognized political parties here in Kansas, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party's a minor party. So they go through a different process for nominating their candidates. But for the Democratic Party in the Republican Party, the August primary is their nominating elections. So in essence, we're going to be conducting almost three separate elections for that August primary. We're doing one for the Republican Party, one for the Democratic Party, and then also any kind of at-large measures added. So if you are currently registered as a Libertarian Party, or with the Democratic Party of the Republican Party, and you want to vote on a different party's ballot, you have until June 1 to re-register to affiliate with that party. It's very confusing from the standpoint but again, that June 1 deadline is the key, important deadline if you want to do it. We also have unaffiliated voters, and those are voters who have not affiliated with a political party. You do not have to be affiliated with a party. Every voter in Johnson County will receive a ballot on the August measure. And for example, the county commission races as well as any of the constitutional amendment questions, any voter will vote on that. But typically, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, you need to affiliate with their parties to vote on their ballot measures. And any unaffiliated voter can change or affiliate with a party up to and including on Election Day. So if you're currently an unaffiliated voter, you're fine, you do not have a June 1 deadline. But if you are currently affiliated with a party, one of the three parties, and you want to change that party affiliation, June 1 is the deadline to do so. So a lot of lot of information there. But again, that June 1 is the first important deadline for voters, if they want to change their party affiliation.
Jody Hanson 7:30
I'd say it's a good day to keep in mind a lot of good information there. So let's talk about kind of the backend, and what happens to make these races go as smoothly as they go. I know a big part of that is election workers. So if you can talk about the need for election workers this year, Fred, how many do you need? Maybe how many do you have, and what kind of jobs will they perform?
Fred Sherman 7:54
So actually creating and implementing an election is a multifaceted operation where a lot of things happen concurrently all coming to the head, coming up to election days, both in August and November. And, you know, we have some full-time staff but not enough staff to basically be able to implement all the different facets in terms of what needs to be done. So we'll need between probably 1,000 to 2,000 election workers in various capacities to help us out, ramp up and then actually do the operations of servicing voters, actually providing the opportunities for voters to do so. And that's a wide range of operations from basically working at a point site on Election Day, or we're going to have a number of advanced voting sites this year. I think it will need a good crew of election workers to help service the voters on that aspect of them. In Kansas, we also have vote by mail. So we have a work crew and a special board that kind of helps us do the mailing process for that. We also have a lot of other needs in terms of training, logistics in terms of setting up the election equipment, delivering the equipment, so a wide range of that aspect, as well as just part-time, seasonal folks that help us with the voter registration processes as well. So a broad range of aspects in terms of what all we can do, in terms of having election workers. So it's not just Election Day, we have a need, particularly in will be June and July as we ramp up for the August election. And then probably in late September and October is the next timeframe where we'll need a good grouping of help election workers to help us out.
Jody Hanson 9:30
Okay, great. Thank you and, and Susie, you're here as an election worker. So I'd love to hear more about you and your story. What's it like to be an election worker? How did you get started and how long have you done it?
Susie Martin 9:43
Well, thank you. I have been an election worker since the general election in 2016. And I came on board at the request of one of the trainers for election workers to assist her in training election workers for that presidential election. And since that time, I've been hooked. I love working as an election worker. I've participated not only as an election worker working small elections, but the presidential elections. To me, no election is small, they're also very important. I enjoy being able to, to know the process of how votes work from the point of view of the voter. I've been able to be an assistant supervising judge, which just has a little bit more responsibility. And I've most recently acted as a supervising judge, which allows me not only to guide the team that I'm working with, and pull them together as a group, but then also to assist the voter in understanding the process. I get very excited about voting, and I believe I'm a voting geek. And no two elections are alike. I just really love it.
Jody Hanson 11:05
We appreciate you and the other election workers who do that. I actually did it as well in 2016, as an assistant supervisor judge, and I remember that the supervisor judge, the one in charge of it, just knew so much. It was so impressive to see how talented and how much expertise that person had.
Susie Martin 11:26
Yeah, it makes a difference. It makes a difference.
Jody Hanson 11:30
So Fred, can you talk a little bit about the time commitment somebody can expect, if they're going to maybe try this for the first time? How much time does it take? Maybe talk a little bit about the training? And people might want to know, do you know, do they get paid for this time? Or is it just volunteer?
Fred Sherman 11:47
So again, we rely on a number of workers of them. Traditionally, most people have wanted and kind of targeted for that Election Day aspect. And that is a full day, we do require our workers to work the entire timeframe. Some of this gets into the security and kind of chain of custody, and basically being accountable for who all is basically overseeing and in charge of a polling site. So working on Election Day is a long day, poll sites are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And we require our election workers to arrive beforehand to help set up a point site and stay the entire day. And then once the last voter has voted either on or after 7 p.m., they've got to go through a closing process. So it is a long day to work on Election Day. We also will have a number of advanced voting sites this year. And those will happen a few weeks before the election days, in both the August and November election days. So we'll have some dates in July, as well as late October. And those will have both Monday through Friday, as well as Saturday voting. So some people that can't get off on a Tuesday Election Day if they want to try, election workers have weekend opportunities for them to engage as a traditional election worker as well. So the election workers go through and are required to have training. Typically, in the past, we've kind of done either a half day or full day on-site training, through the kind of the change of the pandemic and the aspects that everyone's doing. We're basically gravitating more to some online training opportunities as well. We still have some hands-on needs, particularly for some brand-new election workers, Susie can talk about the training aspect, as she's really helped us in that component of them. So there will be some online training opportunities for election workers. But anyone who's brand new, we will require them to do some personal or on-site training because they get familiar with the voting equipment, some of the terminology and techniques in that aspect of it, because the main service is to service the voters, is to basically give the voters the opportunity to do so. It is, for the most part, volunteer work, but there is a stipend that is paid to election workers. Currently, our rate is $110 a day for working as an election worker. And then we do provide an additional $25 stipend once you complete the training program. So again, some folks that want to work multiple days, and we do have a lot of folks that like working those advanced voting sites, were able to work multiple days as we open those advanced sites prior to both the August and November elections.
Jody Hanson 14:21
And Susie, I'd love to hear about the training from your point of view, both by someone that's gone through the training and assisted with the training. I'm sure there's people out there that think, "How am I going to get ready? This sounds interesting and like something I'd like to do, but how do I know I can even do it?" So talk us through that.
Susie Martin 14:38
Well Jody I can tell you that training that you experienced in 2016 is very different than the training that we have set up now. That was a small, crowded environment. Everybody was eager to get their hands on those poll pads and learn from them. But now we have basically a lab setting set up for new workers, and even returning workers if they want to, if they choose to come into the lab, to get experience to re-remember what they do from one election to another, because nobody has this mastered. We all are learners for every election. And it is my goal, as well as the team of people that have been gathered, to help with training to make sure that an election worker feels confident for Election Day, and that they can be the most valuable team member for their polling group as possible on Election Day. And we do that by answering questions, by guiding, by leading, experiencing the different situations that occur on on Election Day so that they know they are a part of a team. The rest of the team that's working with them on Election Day has gone through the same training. Collective minds are able to come up with the solution or an answer to any kind of question. And all of that is to serve our voters because our job is to help voters vote.
Jody Hanson 16:13
And they sure appreciate what you do. And I know the election office does too. Fred, let's talk about a few other election-related items that people might be curious about right now. Maybe you could give us some numbers on how many polling places that you plan on having on Election Day. And maybe also talk about things like advanced voting, are the site's going to change from the previous year? Anything new with mailing ballots, just what can people expect overall in 2022.
Fred Sherman 16:42
So let me start with the broad perspective and basically kind of reflect here in Kansas. And it's been this way since a bit over 25 years since 1996. Voters have any one of three options of how they can vote or participate in election. They can vote in person at a polling site on Election Day. And that will be to their designated polling site because we're still precinct-based on Election Day. So it will be one designated polling site for a voter that need to attend. They can vote in person at an advanced voting location. And advanced voting can begin up to 20 days prior to the election cycle. And Johnson County voters have really embraced that in-person advanced voting process. And the third way is, in Kansas, you can also vote by mail. Kansas is considered kind of a no-excuse, by-mail voting state, which means you don't have to have a particular situation or criteria to vote. But you do have to make an application to vote for each election cycle. So those three options are available for every election cycle here with the August primary and the November elections in Kansas. So we have a good number of Election Day polling sites. They've gone down through the years, basically, as we've had some challenges and try to consolidate some areas. So we probably have between 140 and 150. polling sites on Election Day coming up this election cycle, here in 2022. We're in fact, our right now are kind of finalizing those sites with the locations. Most of our sites do not charge us. They're just letting us open the doors and be there on Election Day. And we really appreciate those partners to allow us to have those Election Day voting sites. So again, it's a little fluid, probably between 140 or 150 for Election Day. The other component is advanced voting. And again, as I mentioned before, that Johnson County voters have really embraced that advanced voting. Traditionally, we offer advanced voting Monday through Friday, typically from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. And then we offer Saturday advanced voting, which is typically 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on those Saturdays. In fact, Saturdays are probably our most popular voting days for those advanced voting sites. Because you get busy in your life, issues come up, and those you can do it on any one of the timeframes. So I'm proud to announce that this year for the 2022 election cycle, we are likely going to be offering 16 advanced voting sites for the 2022 election cycle. And then these even number of years, we do them in a kind of extended, on a two-plus weeks timeframe. We'll be opening them on Saturdays, and we're going to open them in two ways. So we're looking at first opening nine advanced voting sites on one wave on a Saturday. And then a week later opening seven additional voting sites to basically have 16 voting sites for almost seven, eight voting days leading up to the election. So more information is going to come out of those and the specific locations. A lot of them are ones we've used in the past. Arts and Heritage, Hilltop Center, Northeast Offices, Election Office, Sunset, New Century, those are ones that we've used in the past years for a lot of voters, but we have a lot of new partners that are new sites for these kind of pop-up sites that are going to be one-week-long ones. And that's going to include Westwood City Hall, Shawnee City Hall, Leawood City Hall and a few other locations throughout the county to kind of be able to provide good opportunities for voters to vote here in the 2022 election cycle.
Jody Hanson 20:17
Well, I think we'll all appreciate the more opportunities, the advanced voting, having it on Saturdays for those of us who work is a nice benefit to living in Johnson County. So I appreciate that. So Fred, as you know, there has been some conversation out there questioning if elections are fair, if they're secure, if they're accurate here in Johnson County. So for those that may have questions themselves, maybe they've heard something about our elections. What do you say to that?
Fred Sherman 20:49
So Johnson County elections are safe and secure, they're fair, they're accurate and they're going to be accessible. So all those things apply. And for the most part, we comply to the Kansas established voting laws. Here in Kansas, we are a voter ID state. So there is a requirement for voters to provide their identification prior to voting, whether that's in person, either on Election Day, or advanced voting. Or if you vote by mail, again, there's an application process where a voter has to provide your identification to apply for a mail ballot. And that's even to receive a mail ballot. Once the mail ballot's sent out to the voter, the voter again goes through a security process where they are able to cast their ballot, put it into an envelope specific to that voter, sign an envelope, comes back and again, that goes through a security process. As as people learn, and when they become and go through election work training, it's a very secure environment. We do a lot of two-person integrity. We have a lot of checks and balances systems throughout the entire process. We do a lot of what's called balancing. That's a very key term in elections where we account for every ballot and every voter. And we make sure we know how many voters checked in to vote. And we know how many ballots have been cast at any one location or polling site, or even by mail. We keep those numbers balanced, ensure that we have one voter who's cast one ballot. So again, Johns County elections are safe and secure. They're fair, they're accessible and they're going to be accurate.
Jody Hanson 22:17
Great, good information there. Thanks for providing that. Susie, let's say that there's someone watching this or listening this that thinks, "Oh, this is kind of an interesting idea to be an election worker." Maybe they're a bit curious, but they're on the fence. And maybe they need a little bit of convincing. What would you say to that person?
Susie Martin 22:36
Come on board, come on board. You learn a lot about the Johnson County election process by being an election worker. And I tell people, I recruit quite often. I've recruited family members, neighbors, and I tell them, this is the best, longest day you will ever serve your community. And you're excited in the morning, you're excited through the day to help voters and then the closure at the end of the night. And it's a job well done. I tell people that, like Fred said about the security and the fairness and all the laws that our processes are based on, that if you want to know how voting works in Johnson County, be an election worker. It's the best one-day job you could ever have.
Jody Hanson 23:36
Well, I think that's a great way to end hopefully there will be lots of people who hear this or watch this and sign right up. And speaking of that, the Johnson County Election Office website is a great resource. All of the information that was shared today, you can find a lot of information about the calendar, about races. You can go to the website and apply to be an election worker, you can register to vote, you can view a ballot, a lot of good resources there. That's jocoelection.org. So great place to keep learning about this topic and get ready for August and November. But they shouldn't wait that long, right, if they're interested in being an election worker? Is this the time that people should start applying?
Fred Sherman 24:18
That is correct. So go to the website. There's a tab on there to be an election worker, it'll take you to a portal where you can input your information. You go through a little bit of a survey kind of aspect to kind of get your preferences and what you're looking for. We'll get you locked in the database for election worker training. So we'll have some communication with election workers between now and prior to the August election. For the most part, election training for the August election will probably start ramping up in earnest right after the Fourth of July weekend. So we'll be starting in early July to get ready for that August election. But we'll have some communication dialogue with people that want to sign up and have some interest in election workers between now and then.
Jody Hanson 24:59
Great. Well, Fred Sherman and Susie Martin, thank you so much for spending this time with us. I think we got some great information out there. And again, if you're interested in applying, if you're interested in learning more, check out jocoelection.org. Thanks so much for joining us today.
You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at jocogov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.