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Dallas County Elections Department will soon provide ‘rumor control’ on its website

The Dallas County Commissioners Court meets at the Dallas County Records Building on Sept. 20, 2022
Jacob Wells
/
KERA News
Dallas County Elections Administrator Michael Scarpello has told commissioners that voters will have access to a new tool to help them wade through election misinformation and disinformation.

Dallas County Elections Administrator Michael Scarpello said voters this fall will have a new tool to help them wade through election misinformation and disinformation: a dedicated place on the department’s website where his agency will debunk false rumors.

“So any time we hear a falsity, we will put out the reality to counter that,” Scarpello said.

Elections staff will be assigned to look for the misinformation; their fact-checking will also be posted on social media. The rumor debunking will debut in the next couple of weeks.

“What we find around the country is a lot of false rumors. Misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information,” Scarpello said at a meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court. The new service aims to “dispel these rumors quickly when they come up.”

Scarpello presented updates to elected officials on Tuesday on a wide range of voting-related items, including the current state of poll worker recruitment.

Dallas County has a little more than half the number of poll workers and election judges it needs to staff polling places on November 8.

These part-time employees are vital for a smoothly run election. Complaints from poll workers and voters after the county’s primary election in the spring — coupled with ongoing controversies about elections across the country — have made workers reluctant to jump in.

Dallas County Elections Director Michael Scarpello.
Bret Jaspers
/
KERA News
Dallas County Elections Administrator Michael Scarpello

Scarpello told county commissioners on Tuesday his department still needs 912 election judges and 3,000 poll workers in all to staff approximately 469 sites on November 8. Currently, there are a confirmed 520 judges and 1,565 total workers.

“That makes me a little nervous,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, noting that it is a little more than a month before Election Day.

Scarpello said his department is in “average” shape in terms of poll worker recruitment.

“We sent out notices to the judges weeks ago,” Scarpello told commissioners. “What we’re trying to do more with the parties is, we’re building up an army of clerks to use as replacements as needed.”

Election judges run the voting sites and are typically recruited by the county political parties. The judges, in turn, often enlist the clerks.

The chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, Kristy Noble, nodded when Jenkins asked her if Democratic election judges would turn in their paperwork on time.

The chair of the Dallas County GOP, Jennifer Stoddard-Hajdu, told KERA she was “very confident” that her party’s judges would turn out as well.

“I think we’re doing very well,” said Stoddard-Hajdu. “We have nearly 1100 poll workers, which include judges, alternate judges, and clerks. We are continuing to look for additional clerks.”

Poll workers will now be paid for setting up their election site the evening before the election — commissioners approved funding for that earlier this year.

One of the complaints from election workers in the wake of the March 1 primary election was paychecks that arrived many weeks late. Scarpello told commissioners his office had taken several steps to try to prevent that from reoccurring, such as automating the data transfer from the elections department to the payroll system.

Yet Commissioner Theresa Daniel said she wanted him to keep the commissioner’s court in the loop about any more problems with paying election workers.

“It's a part-time, temporary gig, but they do it with care and with heart,” Daniel said. “We should be able to handle this particular item.”

Scarpello presented other election-related changes that he hopes will help the election run smoothly, including an updated “Vote Center Lookup Tool” that has turnout and wait times.

“It’s really important for people to use our lookup tool to find out where their nearest polling place is, get driving directions to that location and look for wait times,” he told KERA.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.