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Elkhart County poll worker named ‘Election Hero of the Year’ by Secretary of State

Jakob Lazzaro / WVPE

Kris Mueller has been a volunteer Elkhart County poll worker for 16 years. Her service was recognized Monday when she was named the 2021 “Election Hero of the Year” by Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan.

“If I don’t help, who’s going to?” Mueller said. “This is our civic duty to do this. If I don’t do this, then I can’t complain. I can’t make it better if I don’t help.”

Secretary Sullivan, who travelled to Elkhart to present the award, said Indiana’s poll workers “are so valuable.”

“The foundation of our country is free and fair elections,” Sullivan said. “And I know it’s not just those elected officials that make that happen, it’s all the volunteers — especially the dedicated volunteers that work year after year.”

But following the 2020 election, poll workers across the country have been subject to conspiracy theories, threats and harassment. And many election administration officials have quit

Despite that climate, Sullivan said she thinks Indiana won’t have a problem finding poll workers in 2022.

“We’ll see more and more Hoosiers want to volunteer to make the process even better, especially if they have questions or concerns about the process,” Sullivan said. “The best way to learn it is to volunteer and get to know the elections process through the poll worker experience.”

Elkhart County Clerk Chris Anderson also thanked Mueller for her years of service — she’s been a poll worker since before he started.

“She’s now one of my most steadfast, rock-solid supervisors at one of my vote centers for every single election that I’ve been involved with since 2011,” Anderson said.

Anderson also does not anticipate shortages of poll workers in 2022. For a major election, he said the county needs 270 — nine at each of the 30 voting locations.

Add on the ancillary staff for setting up and the central count processing the absentee ballots, and the grand total is “somewhere between 300 and 325, when all is said and done.”

“I’m very happy with the response that my political party chairs get from their attendees,” Anderson said. “We haven’t had drastic difficulty — we’ve been short, and they’ve made some phone calls and pushed some things. We have always had fully staffed vote centers in Elkhart County.”

Mueller was grateful for the award, but also said all election workers deserve recognition.

“This should go out to everybody,” she said. “Everybody who works late during COVID, everybody who takes the wrath of voters.”

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro came to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.