Poll Worker Training Under Scrutiny

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, October 25, 2004
Open w/poll worker training… (discuss what I have) About nine o’clock on a Wednesday evening, Sacramento County poll workers gather around an optical scan machine testing ballots (sound up-click 21)… The hands-on training followed a few hours of reviewing procedures and learning new federal laws.(nat sound here??) While there’s been a lot of talk about voter security issues, there are also concerns about recruiting and training nearly 100-thousand poll workers for statewide elections, who must operate increasingly complex equipment. Sacramento county poll worker Wilmer Jenkins says a future of pressing buttons to cast ballots may be inevitable—but not necessarily daunting. Cut: Wilmer (:11 ) “Everybody’s so used to punch button, push this and push that now…anything you do you’ve gotta have some training, and I think once we get trained I think it will be a very helpful commodity for the polls.” California registrars of voters rely on what are essentially minimally paid volunteers who are tasked with keeping the elections process running smoothly —and many have had to gradually face the brave new world of electronic voting. On Primary Election Day, there were stories of software glitches or unexpected technological issues that stymied poll workers and in some cases caused delays. The Co-Director of the CalTech-M-I-T Voting Technology Project Michael Alvarez says it’s a reminder there must be a constant honing of the training process. Cut: Michael4 (:11) “One of the trends we’re seeing in California but more importantly in other places throughout the country is elections officials are becoming more and more creative.” Yolo County Registrar of Voters Freddie Oakley heads a task force established by state law to create uniform poll worker training standards. She says the new technology has spurred a necessary re-tooling of old practices. Cut: Freddie1 (:21) “we’re all going to be using more modern and more effective teaching methods and a lot of that is going to be hands-on training for poll workers which they’re going to love…” Some newer methods include sending home videos and D-V-D’s for poll workers to use as refreshers prior to Election Day. Additional training time is also inevitable, particularly in counties making the switch to other voting technologies. San Joaquin County Registrar Deborah Hench says her poll workers spent four hours training to work with the new technology. Cut: Debbie1 (:19) (cut this bite!) “So we had gone from what was a one-hour training class to four hours. This gave them time to go over any news laws or concerns, plus two hours of training on the touch screens.” Hench says concerns about losing poll workers over fears of new technology haven’t panned out, at least in her county. She says workers embraced certain easier aspects of the touch screen machines and expressed disappointment that they won’t be in use this time around. San Joaquin County must use optical scan ballots after the Secretary of State banned the use of their Diebold (DEE-bold) touch screen machines used in the Primary. CalTech’s Michael Alvarez says it will be an ongoing process and will take up to two or three election cycles to work out the bugs—not just in voting machines, but in how voters, polling place workers and elections officials use the new technology. SOC