Re: Have you ever been a poll worker?

From: Steve Chessin <steve_dot_chessin_at_sun_dot_com>
Date: Mon May 17 2004 - 00:18:39 CDT

>Date: Sun, 16 May 2004 23:28:11 -0400
>From: David Mertz <>
>Subject: Re: [voting-project] Have you ever been a poll worker?

>Steve Chessin's experience in Santa Clara is helpful in getting a sense
>of workability of the several proposals for insuring voters get a
>correct ballot (particularly in jurisdictions with closed primaries).
>Have you (Gayle) followed the discussion of competing procedures for
>dispensing a proper ballot? If so, how does your experience as an
>election judge and poll watcher speak to the procedural feasibility of
>each procedure, at least for Colorado?
>Just a brief repeat:
>Ellen: Partially preprinted party-specific ballots for voters to finish
>printing at vote station.

Back when we used punchcards, they were a different color for each
party. I'm assuming that this would be true in this case as well.
They might also be card stock, so as to stand up better to handling by
the voter. (Card stock won't crumple the way 20-lb paper would if
someone pushes it too hard into the printer.) They could also have the
lower left corner cut, to help especially blind people insert the paper
correctly. (Having a lower corner cut wouldn't interfere with paper
feeding. And "left" is as the paper is placed into the sheet feeder;
whether that is print-side up or print-side down depends on the printer
I suppose. You'd want all the printers in a jurisdiction to be the
same, of course.)

Anyway, this seems workable. It seems no more difficult for the voter
(or the poll workers) than precinct-based optical scanners, where the
voter is also handed a piece of paper or card stock that they have to
stick into a machine.

For primaries, the printer would have to print the party name in the
same strip as the bar code, so that a poll worker could verify that the
voter selected the correct party, and void the ballot if they didn't.

That does require an additional poll worker during primaries, and there
will be some escapes. Most escapes would be caught during either the
semi-official or official canvass, where each ballot would be inspected
to make sure it matched, and any non-matches declared void (and those
precincts recounted). (Some might escape even that check, but then no
system is perfect.) (I'm envisioning that, during the canvass, the
ballots for each precinct are sorted by color, and then each pile -- I
can't think of the word for this, but it's what you do when you hold,
say, a paper-back book in one hand and pull the pages with the thumb of
your other hand, so that they flip back -- any mis-matched ballots will
stand out, especially if one or two large letters are used to indicate
the parties, and the print position varies with the party.)

Also, voters will have to enter the correct party. Some may be tempted
to enter the wrong party, and will be frustrated when the poll-worker
rejects their ballot. There will definitely be confusion for the voter
when among the chocies they see, say, "Democratic" (for registered
Democrats), "Republican" (for registered Republicans), "NP-Democratic"
(for Decline To State who want to vote in the Democratic primary), and
"NP-Republican" (for Decline to State who want to vote in the
Republican primary). They will have to be told what to enter when they
are handed their color-coded blank ballot. (It would help if the
color-coded blank ballot were also pre-printed with the party name, or
NP for no party.)

>Ed: Machines activated to party-specific ballot for each voter by poll
>worker, using PINs.

Using Santa Clara County as an example, the third poll worker wouldn't
sit behind the table, but would instead escort each voter to a machine
and activate it. Could be workable. That poll worker will get a lot
of exercise. :-)

>Alan: Voter given a one-digit card (maybe a color code piece of plastic
>with a number on it), poll worker at ballot box collect card and makes
>sure the party code on card matches that exposed on ballot.

As with Ellen's system, an extra poll-worker would be needed during
primaries to collect the ballot and make sure that the party code

Unlike Ellen's system, there is no way to catch escapes.

>David: Each voter given unique PIN to enter on machine from randomized
>list. PIN contains code for party specification.

No extra poll workers needed, but does require voter to remember a
six-digit number, or else have the poll-worker write it down on a slip
of paper to hand to the voter (slowing down the process). Will
frustrate voters if they enter it wrong (digit transposition or wrong
doubling, the two most common errors made with phone numbers). (Wrong
doubling can be eliminated by making sure each PIN doesn't use any
digit more than once. That means 5040 unique 4-digit PINs instead
of 10000, but that should still be enough.)

>Arthur: Each voter given a physical smartcard that contains ballot
>information, including party. Voter must return smartcard before
>leaving polling place.

Identical to current DRE procedures, including what was used in Santa
Clara County. (BTW, each polling place was given 25 smart cards, even
though there were only five machines, so that if a few went missing
voting could still take place.)

= The content of this message, with the exception of any external
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain
Received on Mon May 31 23:17:48 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon May 31 2004 - 23:18:16 CDT