Poll workers head back to the academy

Just as the kids head back to school after winter break, in preparation for the Feb. 5 Presidential Primary poll workers have been heading back to a school of their own: the Poll Worker Academy.

This winter session, 100 poll workers will be able to complete the academy, which was launched last year to certify poll workers as eSlate experts.

Poll workers being instructed in the Seals, Locks & Logs class at the Poll Worker Academy

About 600 poll workers completed our inaugural summer session, which ended with an official graduation ceremony at the College of San Mateo.  The winter session is also open to graduates looking for a refresher.

So far more than 120 new students and graduates have signed up for academy classes throughout the month, and Greta McElroy, who heads up poll worker training, said this time around everyone seems a little less nervous around the eSlates.

“People are much more relaxed because they’ve gone through more than one election with this stuff,” McElroy said. “It’s not foreign anymore.”

Election equipment seals, broken and unbrokenApparently it’s toughest to get a seat in the two-hour Seals, Locks & Logs class, which covers the myriad security requirements that have been put in place for 2008. Designed to eliminate the confusion about what goes where, the course helps poll workers become experts in the location and function of all the security seals and locks on voting equipment and to develop an eye for irregularities.

At a Seals, Locks & Logs class on Thursday at the College of San Mateo, there was plenty of sealing and locking – and even some breaking. Broken seals were passed around for inspection.

Other courses in the academy cover the procedures for closing the polls at the end of Election Day, as well as the mandatory overview training of procedures for the Feb. 5 Presidential Primary that’s required of all 2,000 poll workers.  A fourth course called 6, 7 & 8 (aptly named for the times of Election Day when poll workers arrive and polls open and close) covers the gritty details of setting up and taking down the eSlate system.

It’s eight hours of intense coursework to complete the academy, and in partnership with the San Mateo County Community College District, poll workers who graduate earn a half-unit of college credit. (Update: Although a half unit of college credit through the community college district was offered for graduates of the summer session, credit is not being offered for the winter session.)

Poll workers gather around the eSlate at the Poll Worker Academy’s Seals, Locks & Logs class

We’re pretty certain we’re the first jurisdiction in California to have partnered with a community college district to offer college credit for training, and the first to offer an academy that officially certifies poll workers for Election Day service.

McElroy said the blend of summer academy graduates and new students for the winter session for deeper discussion and learning.

“Somebody says, ‘Well, what about blah blah blah?'” McElroy said. “Everybody is getting more comfortable and more knowledgeable, and it’s really rewarding.”

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