Gone are the days when a paper survey was enough to gauge what our more than 2,000 poll workers really think about working on Election Day. In an effort to be a little more 21st century – and a little more meaningfully engaged with poll workers – we’ve upgraded to teleconferencing.
We invited poll workers who completed our Poll Worker Academy this summer to participate in one of four hour-long teleconferences this week to give their feedback directly to Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer, and other election officials. About 20 to 30 poll workers called in each time, and they had plenty to say, covering everything from training and polling place facilities to procedures for closing the polls.
Slocum encouraged the brutal truth: “You can say stupid, it’s O.K. Our feelings won’t be hurt.”
We also conducted a similar conference call with field technicians, who provide technical support and fixes at the polls on Election Day for the eSlates, our electronic voting machines. Poll workers were instructed to call a toll-free number; we monitored and managed calls with the help of some software and an LCD screen.
To give you a taste…
“The information in the training was quite well done, I felt more than adequately trained,” said Loreli Trippel, who worked the polls in Redwood Shores. “We were able to deal with any issue that came up as a result of the training.”
But one suggestion she made was to have poll workers assigned to the same polling place in training together.
“It’s probably logistically very difficult, but if there’s some way that the training could be with multiple members of the same teams in the same training at the same time, I think that would be very helpful,” Trippel said. “We all kind of were getting to know each other and how we work and what we had learned in the training on Election Day.”
On voters using the eSlates:
“The thing that I got from most people was that it was very positive, it was easy to do, and even the people we talked into doing it were very pleased with it,” said Jennifer Zuver, who was an inspector (or head poll worker) for two precincts in Foster City.
But more interactive or multimedia tools to help educate voters on using the eSlates are still needed, Zuver suggested.
“If you had a dummy eSlate, I think it might be helpful. Or a video or something – that would be costly, probably,” Zuver said. “But for the next election being probably a very busy one, we’re going to have lots of people, and they might actually look or watch or do it preliminarily to get the idea.”
On the changing of more than 60 polling place locations:
“I understand a lot of the confusion comes in where the people are so accustomed to going to the same polling place every year, every election, that it becomes a no-brainer,” said Lillian Tengan, who worked the polls in South San Francisco. “And suddenly we have consolidated precincts and things have changed dramatically. So if there’s any way to re-look at the Sample Ballot, and redesign that precinct and location (section), and put them in neon lights or something…”
Slocum said the three key areas for improvement that he took away from the conference calls were simplificiation of polling place operations for poll workers, addressing facility quality of polling places – like making sure bathrooms are unlocked and the heat is turned on – and providing better instructions to voters.
“You get some really good ideas, you find out what works and what you thought was a great idea but might not work out there,” Slocum said about the conference calls. “That’s the way you get better. You listen.”