Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Completely Unacceptable - Franklin Co. Pollworkers Continue to be Trained Incorrectly

Team Bonobo left the house at 7:15 to go vote at Montrose Elementary in Bexley. Early turnout in the rain was light, and there were more machines than voters, and pretty close to as many pollworkers as voters. Thankfully.

I held Charlotte while my wife went up to the table. They found her name, checked her ID, took her to the machine, and she commenced voting. While I waited, a mother and son came up to the table, (This is not the important part, but it's necessary for my conclusion) and the son indicated that he was 17 and planning to vote. The two pollworkers at the table conferred for a moment, with one asking whether he could vote for both affiliation and issues. They decided that they remembered that a 17 year old could not vote for both, so they were going to give him an issues-only ballot. I butted in at that point, saying that a 17 year old can only vote affiliation, there's a special ballot. They looked up at me, and conferred again more quietly. Soon, a young female pollworker came over and discussed it with them, explaining that a 17-year old cannot vote on issues, and explaining how to get him his ballot.

At this point I wasn't thrilled, but at least the pollworkers seemed to know what they didn't really know, and the 17-year old vote is a bit quirky and particular to primaries. And, of course, a person who was obviously freshly trained and in command of the procedures was on the ball and made sure things worked correctly.

Then my wife finished, and I got to go up to the table. I gave my name and they asked for my ID. I gave it to them, and the woman with the book frowned and asked if I had something with my Bexley address. I replied that I didn't need anything with my valid Bexley address, as they had the correct address in the book, and I had a valid Ohio Driver's License. She insisted that the addresses needed to match. I asked the woman next to her - "You know that the address on a valid Ohio License doesn't need to match the address in the pollbook, right?" She told me that I was wrong, they had to match.

At this point I pulled out my electric bill, because there has yet to be an election where the pollworkers were trained correctly. With obvious relief, they gave me my slip and sent me to the voting machine. I voted. After I was done voting, I approached the young woman who had known how to handle the 17-year old. I said "You seem to know how things are supposed to work, can you please explain to the other workers that the address on a license does not have to match the address in the pollbook." She just looked at me. "You know that they don't have to match, right?" She replied "We were trained that the addresses have to match."

I found that statement to be entirely credible, and I am furious about it.

I went over to explain the situation to my wife, and while I was doing so the young pollworker had gone over to consult with two workers, one of whom I'm guessing was the presiding judge. They called me over and asked me to explain my concern. I had a discussion with them, and it took a while for them to understand my complaint. It was first assumed that I misunderstood the rules, but then it became clear that the three of us all understood that when the license address does not match a correct pollbook address, the pollworker is supposed to record the last 4 digits of the license number and provide a regular ballot. Then they were assuming that I voted provisionally, but I told them about the electric bill. Then they wondered what my problem was, since I had voted on a regular ballot. I explained that I was worried about the rest of the day, and that I shouldn't have HAD to have any supporting documents. Finally, one of them said "You would have been forced to vote provisionally if you hadn't produced the bill?" I said "Yes!"

"Gotcha. When the line clears out over there we'll clear them up on the rules."

So. One polling place in Franklin County now (hopefully) has workers who understand the ID requirements. How many polling places are still holding their ground and trusting their training as they hand out provisional ballots to valid voters complying with the ID law?


Carole Cohen said...

It IS disturbing; I know people who are judges today and they received what should be significant training; but if the training is wrong, it's hard to compensate for that! Thanks for sharing your story, I found you on Writes Like She Talks.

adap2k said...

I voted by paper ballot here in Cols, 43205. The “ballot” box was handmade with a slit put in to a bottom of a regular type cardboard box.

It had NO SEAL on it what so ever.

I asked about it and the lead worker told me, “Well we were in a rush”. He ended up putting a twisty tie like thing on the box and said “ok its sealed”. Outrageous. I called the Sec St, and Franklin County B of E and reported it. They took my name and contact info and was told by both entities that they would call me back.

Guess what neither did.

The employees were clueless, untrained, except for one guy who had to help the rest out with every single step. There was no privacy for the people using the machines, the room, in the Columbus “Douglas” school was cramped, loud and just a mess.

I for one am pissed off!

Anonymous said...

I recently moved into the county and even though I have a valid Ohio DL I, my wife and our son (22 yrs old) were all denied ballots, even provisionals, because the address on our DLs did not match what they had in the book.

I saw what they had in their book - it was our correct, current address of 8 months.

I'm aghast at this. How many other people were denied their right to vote for the same reason?

Anonymous said...

I was about the 300th voter in my precinct, but only the 2nd one to ask for a paper ballot.

After filling it out, the envelope I was given to put it in was not large enough for it, so I had to fold a portion of it over to get it in so I could seal the envelope.

When my ballot is opened and counted, it might not scan because I had to fold it. This means, a BOE person will have to fill out another paper ballot, then (as I understand it) get board approval to have another ballot filled out. This means I will have to put my trust into someone to faithfully recast my vote, and not screw up unintentionally or cast my vote differently through their own political agenda.

This is a seemingly small issue, but it's an important one, because it again points out that this hasn't been thought through properly at all.

And proper poll worker training is the duty of Brunner's office, which receives General Fund tax dollars to do so.

When banks want to protect their money, they have the Brinks Company pull up with a nearly impenetrable vehicle manned by people with guns. When Ohio wants to protect votes, it drops them into a card board box. How stupid is this? It shows have little the system actually values voting and votes.

Paul said...


As I indicated in your later post, I have been a pollworker for several years now, and have served as a Presiding Judge for a number of elections.

The #1 problem we have is that the rules have changed every single election since 2004, particularly the rules about ID. And yes, we were trained by the Franklin County Board of Elections that a "VALID ID" must have both your name and your current address on them. A drivers license without your current address is not valid, however a utility bill with your name and your current address is. Even a military ID is not valid since they never have your home address on them.

But my knowledge ends there. Starting with last November's election, the Franklin Cty BOE went to a system where pollworkers are 'specialized.' For example, in the Nov election I was named a 'Provisional Judge' meaning that I got in-depth training on how to process provisional voters, but that's it.

This time I was a 'Machine Judge' meaning that I was trained in the setup and operation of the voting machines, but nothing else.

And I learned early in the day that what I thought I knew about voter ID requirements and voting rules was obsolete - when we were processing a 17 year old voter. In prior elections they voted on the machines. Turns out this time they had to use a provisional ballot. At least that's what my co-workers who had been trained in voter sign-in said.

So there is this depth/breadth issue now in training that's pretty interesting. The only person who has been trained on all aspects is the Presiding Judge. Ours was very good this election, but I've known some who aren't.

But I will give this admonishment to those who complain about the pollworkers - quit bitching about the process and become one yourself. Franklin County is short hundreds of pollworkers and the November election is going to have the highest turnout in history. We would not have made it through the last few elections without the high school kids who now help. At first they were just extra hands who helped the official pollworkers. Now they have to be used as full-fledged members of the team.