I skimmed through the recent press about the November elections and there is a wealth of information about problems at the polls that are directly poll worker related. The stories below encapsulate why effective poll worker training and polling place management are such important issues.
In the Detroit mayor’s race, there was controversy about voting. As the Detroit Free Press reported, “A final tally released Tuesday by the city Board of Canvassers indicated that Kilpatrick beat Hendrix by a vote of 123,140 to 108,600. Even those results, however, came with a caveat as elections officials said the number of ballots cast in nearly 100 precincts don’t match the number of voters who signed poll books or the number of votes recorded on receipt tapes from election machines. Suspicions rose after the election when the Free Press reported that Detroit officials had lost track of ballots in nine precincts and did not count them until two days after polls closed. In one case on election night, a poll worker took home two computer data packs containing ballot information and didn’t turn them in until the following day.
In North Liberty, Iowa, people initially thought one person was elected mayor when in fact that was not the case. As the Iowa Press Citizen reported, “There was some initial confusion about who was to be North Liberty’s next mayor following the Nov. 8 election. A poll worker reported the wrong total number of write-in votes from one precinct. The mistake, which was cleared up after tape from the voting machines was brought into the auditor’s office, gave Bahl the lead with 36 percent of the votes.
In the Queens, NY Chronicle, The Asian American Legal Defense Fund reported possible violations of the federal elections laws at eight polling stations in Queens including: missing voting signs at one school, missing interpreters, and rude behavior by poll workers.
“The preliminary reports show that Asian Americans needed to overcome several obstacles to exercise their right to vote,” Glenn Magpantay, staff attorney for the legal defense fund, said in a statement. “As in the previous elections, poll workers were hostile and some did not understand their obligations under federal laws. This is unacceptable.”
For example, “a poll worker rushed one Chinese-American voter to finish voting even though she had not finished reading the instructions. The poll worker stopped when a supervisor arrived. Another voter reported that a poll worker at the site was very rude and tried to belittle her. At one poll site, a Spanish interpreter was available but poll workers did not seek the interpreter’s assistance when a voter needed it. One election district voting table had bilingual materials stacked in a pile in unopened packages.