With the presidential election under three months away, boards of elections across the nation are hard at work to ensure Election Day goes off as smoothly as possible during these unprecedented times. At the Delaware County Board of Elections (BOE), the operation will include an employee taking on a new role as Jeremy Austin has been promoted to manage the office’s printing and tabulation operations.
“Jeremy is our future, and I am very proud to have him on our management team,” BOE Director Karla Herron told The Gazette.
Republican board member Steve Cuckler said of Austin’s promotion, “The Delaware County Board of Elections is blessed to have employees like Jeremy Austin.”
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Austin has served in a variety of roles with the BOE since joining the team in 2016. Prior to joining the BOE, Austin worked at the Ohio Statehouse as an administrative assistant to a former senator and current representative. He also holds a degree in education from Kentucky State University, as well as an MBA from Columbia Southern University.
For the past five years, Austin has served as an election support specialist before being promoted following a retirement in the office. He said he’s always been interested in government, although getting started in a BOE office isn’t something for which a person can be trained.
“The board of elections is the type of thing you just can’t go to school for,” Austin said. “There’s no curriculum, you have to learn as you go.”
Austin’s move away from the statehouse and to the BOE was a result of his son’s birth and wanting to be closer to him and his wife, he said.
“I just wanted to be closer to home so I could deal with any issues that potentially may have arisen with a newborn,” Austin said.
Working for a medium-sized county, with an office size of around 20 people, requires the staff to wear many different hats, Austin said. With such a wide range of experience as a result, he said places like the Delaware County BOE make great stepping stones for future director positions. In fact, he said there have been five or six people since he’s been in Delaware that have gone on to deputy director or director positions in other counties.
“You learn a whole lot, and it really is a great training ground to make great directors who go out to other counties,” Austin said.
Asked if he aspires to be a director someday, Austin said he has considered the thought but is still very much in the learning stages at the moment.
With the election coming fast, Austin won’t have much time to get acclimated in the new role. However, the experience he has received in many different departments during his time with the BOE will serve him well, he said, as the election draws near.
“Absolutely, because to know all the other departments only helps you, particularly when you know what those departments need,” he said when asked if he was better suited by having to work many different tasks.
Of course, the 2020 presidential election appears primed to be unlike any other this country has seen. The BOE has had to scramble to get poll workers prepared for the coming election, using online modules for training. Without any idea of whether there will be any in-person voting allowed or not, Austin said they have had to prepare for two different types of elections. He added that the office is anticipating as many as 100,000 absentee ballots, which he said is “quite a lot for our small office to handle.”
Despite all the challenges the BOE office will face with the coming election, and whatever they have to do to make it happen, Austin said Herron is one of the best in the state at what she does, which certainly helps the cause. In fact, Austin said he has heard Herron referred to as “the Michael Jordan of board of elections” due to how thorough and knowledgeable she is. He added that the board members are equally great, with vast knowledge as well.
Asked about the importance of the community getting out to vote this November, and what he would say to encourage everyone to do so, Austin said it’s bigger than simply casting a ballot for the sake of saying you voted.
“It’s not enough to merely cast a ballot,” he said. “You should cast a ballot in accordance with a philosophy, which means you need to know what the issues and concerns are. You need to be educated on what you’re voting for.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.