Cuyahoga pollworkers hit the books

The Akron Beacon Journal had a good story about how pollworkers in Cuyahoga County (Ohio) are going to a local community college to receive training before their November election. No doubt, after reports like the one we collaborated on with ESI, additional pollworker training in Cuyahoga is essential for insuring a smoothly-functioning general election this fall. The only question is whether or not they will have any evaluation mechanisms in place to determine the effectiveness of the training program (for example, will they reproduce the ESI audit to see if the pollworker training program leads to measurable improvements in any quantitative performance metrics?).

Here’s the highlights from the story:

CLEVELAND – Vanessa Lawrence was happy to be back in class Wednesday.

She and thousands of other poll workers in the state’s most populous county are not just getting instructions for the general election Nov. 7. This time they have to pass a written test on procedures at the end of a four-hour training session and demonstrate that they can perform basic tasks involving a touch-screen voting machine, such as encoding a voter card and changing paper.

Under a $730,000 contract, Cuyahoga Community College is taking over training after a disastrous primary in which poll workers were blamed for not knowing how to operate new electronic voting machines, losing vote-holding memory cards and, in some cases, not even showing up.

The training program is among the first of its kind, said David Reines, the college’s executive vice president. It could point the way for election boards around the country that are switching to electronic voting machines, said Dick Dadey, executive director of the New York-based Citizens Union Foundation, a nonprofit research, education and advocacy group.

“I think it’s an essential model if the country is going to make the transition to these new machines as seamless as possible,” he said.

Lawrence was one of about 12 students taking instruction from one of the college’s instructors and a staff member from North Canton-based Diebold Election Systems, which makes the voting machines.

“This class, I think, is going to help make our day go better than it did the last time,” Lawrence said. “Some polls didn’t open on time. You’ve always got people coming in before they go to work and want to get their votes in.”

About 1,400 poll workers have completed the training since the sessions started Sept. 30. The board needs to train about 5,700 poll workers, and training sessions will continue into November if necessary, said Jane Platten, who coordinates the program for the elections board.

County commissioners have authorized a $50 increase in poll workers’ pay, to $172, covering the new, four-hour classroom training, a meeting lasting about an hour and a half the night before the election and election day work.