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Poll workers had a different experience this year

The days leading up to Nov. 3 were filled with anxiety for veteran poll worker Rob Schiele. 

Schiele said he's worked eight to 10 elections for both Butler and Hamilton counties. This year's election was his second presidential election. 

As the election season quickly approached,  Scheile said he was worried how the increased tension around the election might affect the people who turnout to vote. 

“I kind of went into it with a fear that there may be confrontations or maybe there would be more people that would want to kind of argue or not follow the rules,” Schiele said.

He was not alone in his fears. Tyler Boes, a veteran poll worker who’s worked seven to nine elections, said presidential elections usually have the highest turnout of voters who may not be familiar with the voting process. 

“I was nervous that folks on both sides would be a little less than kind with the presidential election,” Boes said. “They're not as familiar with our systems, and they are more ready to spew talking points from whichever TV show they prefer as opposed to working with us to figure out a solution.”

When Schiele arrived at his polling location at Wyandot Elementary in Liberty Township, he was surprised to see his worries were unfounded. 

“That was really not the place, or it didn't happen there,” Schiele said. “Compared to previous presidential elections, [turnout] was very down.”

He said when polls opened at 6:30 a.m., there was already a line waiting for them. After about an hour, Schiele said the line dissipated and voters had a very short wait if any at all.

Boes too had very little issue with the voters that came into his Butler County polling location. 

“We did have a few people who were frustrated by lines or had difficulty with the machines and used that as a jumping off point to give me an earful about their preferred candidate,” Boes said. “But overall, we had very few issues and very few frustrated voters.”

Boes said compared to the 2016 election, it wasn’t as stressful or tense. While there was a consistent stream of voters, it wasn’t nearly the turnout he saw in 2016. 

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“I wasn't really prepared in 2016 for how busy and how exciting and how stressful it was going to be,” Boes said. “I was expecting the same thing this year, but really, the turnout was steady, but it wasn't as overwhelming as I kind of expected it to be.”

Boes and Schiele attribute some of the decrease in turnout to an increased emphasis to early voting or voting by mail.

“I think it was publicized more and just letting people know that that option was available, more so than in previous elections,” Schiele said. 

While Schiele and all other poll workers go through training with the county to de-escalate situations, he said he never needed to. All the voters he saw on Nov. 3 wore masks and were respectful of the poll workers. 

“That was really not the place [for confrontation], or it didn't happen there,” Schiele said. 

Overall, Boes said the experience working the polls this year was a pleasant surprise. 

“I really enjoy working the elections,” Boes said, “not only because I get to be involved in part of the democratic process and helping people vote, but because I find that the more patient and technologically equipped workers we have, the fewer people get turned away.”