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Summit Board of Elections Probing Workers' Internet Use; Some Boards' Tough Policies Head Off Issues

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Summit County’s Board of Elections is investigating its workers’ internet and cell phone use after learning one employee had posted to Facebook almost 50 times during one work day. As ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports, other boards of elections have strict policies to prevent similar problems.

Friday, August 29, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Cecilia Robart’s Facebook postings were problematic for two reasons. She was using her personal cell phone on the clock, and the posts expressed her political viewpoints while her profile identified her as an elections official, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

Robart violated both the Summit board’s policies for workers’ personal cell phone use, and the Ohio Secretary of State’s ethics rules for elections officials, the paper says.

While many private employers encourage some social media use by workers, rules for government employees are stricter. And boards of elections scrutinize what employees post as well as when.

"We do not campaign directly for any candidates or any issues. We don’t put yard signs in our yards," said Faith Lyon, director of Portage County’s board. She said elections officials need to be seen as impartial in their work, even though they’re political appointees. At her office, the policy is unwritten but followed: "When we enter the doors of this office, we leave our politics outside," she said.

Lyon said employees don’t have internet access from their desks. For that, they must use two computers in public view, which discourages non-work use.

In Lorain County, workers can access only an approved list of websites they need to do their jobs. They’re free to work for political campaigns in their personal time.