Lansing Trains Hundreds Of New Poll Workers Ahead Of Historic Election

Oct 28, 2020

There’s now less than a week until the Presidential Election, and officials are bracing for record turnout.

The city of Lansing is training hundreds of new election workers to help those voters cast their ballots on November 3rd.


In a large, socially distanced room at Lansing’s South Washington Election Unit, 13 days before the Election, Chief Deputy City Clerk Brian Jackson led one of those trainings for about 50 new poll workers.

Jackson described the expectations for them on Election Day by alluding to a Detroit legend. 

I think about Aretha Franklin and that great hit, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you keep that in mind, during this very long day, that's really, it's really critical.

"We're looking for you to show that respect. So, I think about Aretha Franklin and that great hit, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you keep that in mind, during this very long day, that's really, it's really critical," Jackson said.

“The voters, no matter what they look like, what they smell like, any issues, they may come in angry and hot. We're there to help them through the process.”

About half of the 600 election workers the city will have November 3 have never done the job before.

City Clerk Chris Swope says they have a lot to learn, from election law to how to handle equipment, but they will be prepared to help voters cast their ballots safely and securely.

"We have experienced people that we are putting with newer people, so that we can make sure that they get that understanding," Swope said.

Worries About Potential Voter Initimidation

Over the course of the training, new workers asked plenty of questions, but one topic came up a few times. One of the new poll workers, Elizabeth Wheeler, said she's concerned about voter intimidation.

"How I would respond to that, how we are expected to respond to that. And how even if we do witness it, how we're reporting that and how our concerns are being taken seriously and how those individuals may be dealt with," she said.

President Donald Trump has asked his supporters to go to the polls and watch very carefully. Those comments have raised concerns about potential voter intimidation.

Much of the anxiousness surrounding Election Day also comes after federal and state authorities revealed they thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer and storm the State Capitol.

I'm not afraid, but there's obviously a concern that something could happen at a polling station.

Bernadette Friedrich says it’s come up when she’s talked with her family about being an election worker.

"Michigan has some very excited people. And I would, you know, I mean, I'm not afraid, but there's obviously a concern that something could happen at a polling station," Friedrich said.

Tom Douglas said he won’t be surprised, but he’s also not worried if things get tense on November 3rd.

"Being a black man in America, I've been put in situations where I've had to have those conversations. So, it wouldn't be something that would be the first time for me," Douglas said.

Chief Deputy City Clerk, Brian Jackson says poll watchers are a part of the election process.

"We have no secrets other than the code to the tabulator. Everything else is a very open process," he said.

Jackson said each precinct will have a poster out explaining what poll watchers can and can’t do.

We have no secrets other than the code to the tabulator.

"Anyone could come in to see what is going on, and the chair would designate area like, 'Look, you can be around here and you won't be in anyone's way, but you can seen how things are going on and things are going smoothly or not going smoothly.'"

No one knows exactly what will happen on Election Day, but if there’s one thing that new poll workers like Wheeler, Friedrich and Douglas wanted to share to Michiganders, it was the simple message to just vote.