Poll Workers and Election Confidence

I have a piece in the Salt Lake Tribune today with Quin Monson and Kelly Patterson (professors at BYU). Quin and Kelly conducted an exit poll in the 3rd congressional district, which had a highly contentious primary, using a set of questions we have worked on examining public confidence in the new voting machines and in the poll workers.

In the exit poll, respondents were asked to to rate the poll workers and their experience interacting with them and with the new voting equipment. As we note in the opinion piece:

Ninety-five percent of voters rated the performance of the poll workers at their precinct as “good” or “excellent.” When asked more specific questions about their experience with poll workers, the results were similarly positive. Large majorities of voters agreed that the poll workers knew what they were doing (93 percent), treated them with respect (95 percent), were helpful (95 percent), and knew how to operate the voting machines (95 percent). Voters in the primary also thought the voting equipment itself performed well, with 88 percent agreeing that the machines were easy to use and 95 percent reporting that the touchscreen machines were either much better or somewhat better than the punchcard system used in previous elections. Only 3 percent of voters reported having any problems with the new equipment, and when voters asked for help using the touchscreen machines, they nearly always received it from a poll worker.

The success of the election largely rests with the poll workers and the training they received from the counties. Without good training, an election involving new voting technology can quickly degenerate into a problem-fest. This election was an example of how to avoid that.