About 75 election workers gathered at the Elections Office on Tower Road in San Mateo Tuesday night to take on their assignments for the big night.
Some dispersed to receiving stations throughout the county, preparing to collect live ballots from poll workers following the 8 p.m. poll closing. Others stayed behind, at the ready in the assembly line to scan, inspect or disassemble boxes and machines containing votes delivered from the receiving stations.
You could feel the intensity of Election Night, democracy unfolding. Well, almost.
Tuesday night marked the Mock Election, a dress rehearsal for election workers to take a dry run-through of Election Night processes after the polls close. Workers familiarized themselves with driving routes, worked out kinks, timed themselves and tested equipment. Even a magnitude-5.6 earthquake, which went mostly unnoticed thanks to the warehouse’s cement floors, didn’t stop them.
All to increase the probability that Election Night remains error-free.
The Mock Election is even conducted on a Tuesday and during the same evening hours as Election Night so that workers experience similar traffic patterns and darkness.
“This is a good run through of everything that everyone’s going to do on Election Night. It’s a dress rehearsal.” said Steve Dennison, who coordinated the Mock Election. “You try to simulate as much as you can.”
Just like they’ll do on Election Night, workers drove out to 14 receiving stations to collect paper ballot boxes and Judge’s Booth Controllers (which operate the eSlates and record all the votes made on them). Taking boxes and controllers with them from the Elections Office that would ostensibly be dropped off by poll workers, they tested out smartphones that track location and possession using a Web program called AssetShadow.
Cars returned to the Elections Office from receiving stations and dock workers practiced unloading boxes and controllers, which were scanned again. Paper ballot boxes were then taken to optical scanners. Controllers were sent down a conveyor for inspection and disassembling to retrieve the memory cards that contain votes. Workers practiced the Secretary of State’s new two-man and chain of custody rules, which require that voting equipment never be left alone with one person and that its whereabouts be meticulously tracked.
Elections Office officials took a practice round at readying for the official vote oount in the secured tally room, too.
Through it all, kinks were discovered and smoothed out, and workers got a feel for the ins and outs of their Election Night job.
“It’s really a drill, so that come Election Night it won’t be the first time we ask people to do things,” said Elections Manager David Tom. “We really practice it. We don’t just grab people and say, ‘you do it,’ because if you do, then you have mistakes made. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”