Poll Woker Experiences

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Today Election
Vote Smart
ef2p wrote in poll_workers
Since I created this community and I worked today’s elections I thought I would post my thoughts about the day. It has been a long day. The alarm went off at 5am. I just got home at 9:pm. This is not organized or well thought out. It is more of a brain dump. Given my personal schedule for the next few weeks, if I don’t do it now it will never happen.

First this was a really slow election. My precinct is voting for the Board of Directors for the local fire protection district and a measure affecting appropriations limits for the fire protection district. It is now 3 in the afternoon and I have had 7 people vote out of the 716 active voters in my precinct.

The beginning of the day was chaotic. There are 4 precincts in this location. We are all supposed to be in the cafeteria. I think in previous elections there have only been 2 precincts here. The day started with the lunch lady and later principal telling us we could not use as much space as we needed. Eventually we squeezed into twice as much space as the principal was willing to give us after losing one precinct to an other room.

Unfortunately the cafeteria is still being used for students activities include breakfast, lunch and after school programs. This has made for a very loud polling place at times. [Bad username: cortneyofeden] and I talked about this a bit. When we were is school, the school made special accommodations for elections. At my elementary school, they closed the library for the day, told the entire school about it the day before and day of, and we took different routes to and from lunch to avoid making noise near the library. To me it appears as if the school made no changes for the election.

I tried visiting the precinct the day before the election. I realized that there would be a problem but the principal was not available all day and nobody else seemed to know anything beyond that we were in the cafeteria. Between this election and the last one, I think I have learned that it really is important to talk to both the person in charge of the facility and the person in charge of the specific room you are in. I’m not sure how to actually pull this off. I’ve tried to do it both times I have been in charge of a precinct but without any real success.

In general the beginning of the day is crazy even without dealing with angry uncooperative principals. In about an hour you need to set up all the equipment, hang flags, put up a bunch of signs, make sure there is disabled access to the room… It would be really nice to have a preplan for the room. I’m not sure how to pull this off. There are 4 different precincts with a different person in charge of each one, plus there is school. I’m not sure how to get the people together before the election. Another trick is that I didn’t know how many precincts were in the same location. So even if I do go ahead of time, I don’t know how much space I really need or if another inspector had planned on using the space.

Some brain storming on ways to deal with this problem that can be done before hand:
  • County preplans the layout of each precinct before the election. Layout is approved by both the county and the school.
  • County specifies the minimum number of square feet supplied to the precinct. (This way we can say that your contract with the county says this much space.)


Some tips that I have found useful:
  • Bring an extension cord (or two). If I had not brought an extension cord, we would not have been able to move our booths to the end of the room like the principal wanted.
  • I really like having a table that the voters can not get to. I can lay out all my extra paperwork and forms on this table and not worry about people playing them. Gives me quick access but keeps prying fingers out.
  • We have ‘street indexes’ that allow the get out the vote people to see who has voted and who has not. We have 3 of these. One is a master. The other two alternate hanging outside for people to see (one gets updated while the other is displayed.) On busy days using colored pencils on these is really useful. If you change colors every time you swap the displayed one, it is really easy to glance at the master and no which names need to be updated.


Other things I would like to see from the county:
  • The county provides a ‘street range detail’ for each precinct. This sheet lists all the streets and the range of house numbers in the precinct. For example my 716 voters are all on 16 lines of text on the ‘street range detail.’ In case like today we have lots of voters that know they are supposed to vote here, but do not know what precinct there is. We frequently spend a bunch of time figuring out which table to go to. On a slow day, I will walk to each table until I find the table they are supposed to be at. But on a busy day or time, I can not do this as I have to keep my precinct running. I would like to get copies of the ‘street range detail’ for all the nearby precincts. This way I can direct people to the correct place without having to leave my precincts table. Alternately a map with precinct boundaries would work.
  • A way of rating elections workers. This should go up and down the chain. Inspectors should be able to comment on both their judges and field techs. Judges should be able to comment on each other. I think one of the biggest problems with our elections is the quality of our poll workers. This might help weed out the bad seeds.


I also had a complaint today about one of the other poll workers in my location (not my precinct). The complaint was the she was chewing gum which made it impossible to understand. I note that the same woman is not dressed appropriately in my opinion. I feel that voting is an important part of our democracy and that I should have a professional appearance when working at the polls. For example today I wore a nice pair of dress pants, a button up shirt and my corduroy jacket.

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um, yeah, I always dress at least "business casual" to work the polls. sheesh.

thanks for the report. I didn't work today 'cause I had class but Auros did and I've encouraged him to join this comm and post about it.

Interestingly, I've never known Santa Clara county to have a "master" street index - just the three timed ones. And our precinct maps generally label what the surrounding precincts are, which helps unless the person is in the totally wrong place.

A map like that would suit me just fine.

Here in Alameda County we get a "street range detail" for the entire county, for that very reason. Also we get cards with the ROV's number to hand out to people so they can call and get any information we're not able to supply.

I tried to type this out before on my Treo but it got lost.

I really don't like handing out the county ROV number (even though we have sheets to hand to the voters if they need it.) My experience is that the people who need help most are the people who are least likely to jump the hurdles to get it. For that reason, I really like giving the voter a definitive answer. I really feel that 'call the county' is a cop out.

Does your complete street range index include polling location?

Yes, it does. And I do treat handing out the ROV number as a last resort, but it's nice to know we have the option.

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