GV area poll workers, voting advocates seek to dispel fraud claims amidst midterms


GVL / Bri Conway

Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

After the 2020 presidential election the ballot counting process became a point of controversy.

The spread of misinformation regarding absentee voting and poll workers fueled conspiracy theorists who continue to question the legitimacy of the voting process. This has continued into skepticism about poll workers and the recent midterm election – the results of which are still being counted and determined.

Working as an election intern for the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office, Grand Valley State University student Quentin Proctor said that questions of integrity behind the election were likely due to a variety of factors.

“If you don’t understand how the process would work, it would seem like, ‘Oh what’s going on here?’ But there is a reason behind everything we do,” Proctor said. “I think that more questions about election integrity started showing up in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and all the mail-in votes, which have been happening for a long time across the country, but never in the volume that happened in the 2020 elections. I think there was just a misunderstanding because people haven’t seen the process firsthand.”

In his role, Proctor assists local precincts, mails out voter registration and answers questions about the election. He said the election process is extremely transparent and secure to prevent voter fraud.

“To anyone that believes that there is election fraud, work my job and you would know that there isn’t,” Proctor said. “It would be super hard to rig an election because, one, so many people in this country would have to keep their mouths shut about it and, two, everything is triple checked.”

Proctor said the tedious process includes sealing everything with specific numbers and signatures from multiple different people. When the polls close, the election results are brought to the County Clerk’s Office, where they can report the results. If any seals were broken, election officials would then be able to identify any potential tampering. Following extensive examination, the Board of Canvassers comes in and looks over the results.

While the voting process has many steps, poll workers help people make their votes count.

“We could not hold an election without poll workers,” Proctor said. “They need to check people in, make sure the voter is registered and at the correct voting location, help out with questions and can call the county, where we can help to provide the answers.”

The local clerks hire poll workers, and some poll workers are recruited. Once they’re hired, they must sit through multiple trainings that the county holds with the elections coordinator, as well as the county clerk. During these trainings, they learn important election information and general scenarios that might come up at the polling location.

Maddy Steigerwald, a GVSU student and employee of the political consulting firm Kolehouse Strategies, said poll workers are important to the election process because they make sure everything is transparent.

“It’s a good way to hold election officials accountable and give transparency to the people actually voting,” Steigerwald said.

Steigerwald worked for weeks prior to the election as a canvasser, where she reminded people of the election and asked if they had a voting plan.

Steigerwald said that people need to be educated on the election process, instead of only listening to a biased news organization.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people just hear the media they consume and a lot of times they’re getting one side and one opinion,” Steigerwald said. “So, it’s really important to be open to hearing everyone that’s participating in the election process and be fully educated on everything that’s going on around you.”

Not only did she work in the election process this year, but her mother, Melissa Steigerwald, worked as a poll worker on Election Day.

Melissa Steigerwald agreed with her daughter that poll workers are important because they provide accountability and transparency and also said that cases of election fraud have not been proven in recent elections.

“There has not been any proven fraud and there’s been more than 60 cases proving there was no fraud,” Steigerwald said.

While the data is unclear on proven voter fraud, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) ensures that the process is highly secure and transparent.

According to CISA’s website, local election offices have security and detection measures in place that make it highly difficult to commit fraud through counterfeit ballots. While the specific measures vary, ballot security measures can include signature matching, information checks, barcodes, watermarks and precise paperweights.

Proctor also said that the Ottawa County Clerk’s Office has public testing of election equipment to make sure everything runs smoothly and can educate those interested or skeptical of the election process.