Poll Woker Experiences

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As we approach super-tuesday..
Pelosi smackdown
plymouth wrote in poll_workers
auros and I went for our election officer training today to work in Santa Clara County on the Feb 5th primary. This will be our last election working in Santa Clara before we move to San Mateo County. We both elected to do the "online training" option, which allows us to do a short 90-min hands-on training instead of a full afternoon session in the classroom. I expect this sort of training to be highly popular with the younger more tech-savvy crowd.

The online training itself however had several problems. The main one being that it had outdated and contradictory information in it. For one thing, as of this election Santa Clara county is using optical-scan ballots as our main voting method, with only one touchscreen machine available for people with disabilities and who, for whatever reason, just prefer to vote electronically (it will have a printer for a paper trail). However, while the online training did mention this, when it got to the point of describing setting up the election it still had a picture of a cart with 5 machines. And the diagram of how to set up the table did not include a spot for the paper ballots at all.

At the end the training had a section on "conflict resolution", which I hadn't seen in previous years training. It was actually pretty useful I thought, with videos of interactions with different types of problem voters (a husband who tries to get into the voting booth with his wife to influence her vote, a man who is in the precinct and doesn't have time to go to his home precinct, a campaigner who is insisting on remaining within the 100yd limit on electioneering) and a sort of "before/after" on dealing with them in a negative vs positive fashion. The problem is, several of the scenarios had OTHER aspects of voting protocol just plain WRONG. In the example of the man in the wrong precinct the pollworker starts the scenario by asking the man for his ID - we are NEVER supposed to ask for ID unless we find the person in the roster FIRST and it SAYS to ask for ID. In another scanario, a man who really should have gotten a provisional ballot was denied the right to vote at all. I found the ID scenario ESPECIALLY troubling as that rule is something that has not changed in YEARS. We both, of course, submitted feedback on the errors in the course material.

One odd new bit of protocol we're supposed to follow this year is that at the end of the night we're supposed to change printers and make an extra copy of the election results from the touchscreen machine to post on the door after we leave. No results from the paper ballots will be included as we're not actually counting those ourselves. I can't think of what could possibly be the purpose of this - the number of electronic votes is going to be a miniscule portion of the total votes so this printout won't be at all representative of precinct results. Anyone know why they are doing this?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the election and will be sure to post more after it happens.

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One odd new bit of protocol we're supposed to follow this year is that at the end of the night we're supposed to change printers and make an extra copy of the election results from the touchscreen machine to post on the door after we leave. No results from the paper ballots will be included as we're not actually counting those ourselves. I can't think of what could possibly be the purpose of this - the number of electronic votes is going to be a miniscule portion of the total votes so this printout won't be at all representative of precinct results. Anyone know why they are doing this?

San Mateo has always done this. Of course previous to using the DRE machines, we used optical scan with a reader for each precinct. Putting you ballot in the ballot box literally meant putting your ballot into the optical scanner, once scanned the ballot was automatically dropped into a secure bin. At the end of the night you would print 2 copies of the tape. One went on the door and the other went back to the county. In fact the memory pack for the scanner was supposed to be sent on its own ASAP to the collection station, leaving the rest of the crew to pack everything else up. Some of the full time elections people tell stories of looking for those printouts at 3 in the morning because something got messed up.

One good reason for doing this is to discourage tampering with the vote database between the precinct and the collection point (or anytime after that). Since there is already a total that has been published, serious concerns would be raised if the total from the memory pack differed from what was published on the posted totals.

Sure, that makes complete sense, publishing FULL precinct totals. But publishing totals from only the one machine that is probably going to get half a dozen votes all day if we're lucky? I just don't get that.

It would be nice if we were going to have an optical scanner in the precinct. But as far as I can tell we aren't and the optical scan ballots just go into a box to be scanned at the election returns station. Probably this is because the county just plain doesn't have enough scanners yet, having invested in doing all touch-screen until Debra Bowen's recent reforms.

Every election it seems like we're working out the bugs from SOME new reform! And I've only been doing this for 3 years :)

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