Poll Woker Experiences

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Vote Smart
Hi, this is ef2p. I am the community creator and moderator.

I created this community as the 2008 presidential race is starting to loom over the USA. Here in California we have a state wide election in November 2007. While attending the training and events leading up to this election, I started posting about my experiences in my personal journal. In some of the discussion in the comments to those posts, I realized some things about elections. First because elections in the USA are run at the county level, every county has different procedures, training programs, voting machines, etc. Furthermore, I have realized that lots of little problems experienced by poll workers never get reported back to the county employees that run elections. After a couple days of thinking it over, I decided to create this community.

As of 09/30/2007, I have worked two elections. Both have been in San Mateo County, California. The first time I worked as a 'Judge', the second time I worked as an 'Inspector'. An inspector is charge of the whole precinct. I started working elections because I was concerned about electronic voting machines. I wanted to go beyond the hype to learn how they work and what checks were in place to prevent cheating.

From what I have observed in the two elections I have work, some poll workers really don't understand the importance of checks and balances and how they work. In my first election, the guy in charge of my precinct cooked the ballot reconciliation numbers. Essentially you count the number of ballots you started with; that should add up to the number of ballots cast, plus the number of ballots spoiled, plus the number of provisional ballots, plus the unused ballots. You are supposed to count the unused ballots but he skipped that part to make the numbers 'work'. In my second election, there were two precincts in the same room. The woman who ran the other precinct left the student poll workers (high school civics students) in charge while ALL the adult went to lunch. These two incidents highlight the lack of understanding about keeping a polling place secure. And these two don't even touch the technological issues.

One of my hopes for this community is that I will start hearing more of these stories. I don't think either event I mentioned effects the out come of the election (even by one vote). But I could see how one of these combined with 'slips' could effect the vote totals. If I do see stories like this, I may print them out and forward them to election officials. If I do that, I will keep your identity anonymous.

As with any community based online endeavor, the result is different than the plan. So start posting and I'll just have to see how it goes.


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