Last updated on: 4/23/2008 | Author:

Do Poll Workers Have Sufficient Support Mechanisms to Deal with Unanticipated Technical Issues with Electronic Voting Machines on Election Day?

PRO (yes)


San Diego County, California’s Chief Administrative Office’s “Initial Report on the March 2, 2004 Primary Election,” released on Mar. 8, 2004, stated:

“The Registrar of Voters had the following phone support available to answer questions from the polling places: 11 troubleshooter hotline phones. All poll workers were provided with this phone number; 12 direct lines to recruitment staff that had been working with the poll workers during the weeks and months prior to the election; 38 Registrar of Voters phone bank lines that supplemented the other lines during the peak incident period; 10 dispatch phones for communicating with Supervising Troubleshooters; and 26 Supervising Troubleshooters. Diebold also had 12 staff at the Registrar’s office to assist with technical support and to address systems questions. Other Registrar of voters also stepped in to deal with calls and to give instructions.

The Registrar of Voters recruited 26 Supervising Troubleshooters, who were available in the field from 5:30 a.m. until the polls closed on Election Day. These Supervisors were coordinating and working with approximately 200 Rovers who were supplied by Diebold, each assigned to monitor a set of polling places in their designated area. Rovers began making their rounds at 5:30 a.m. as well.”

Mar. 8, 2004


Alice P. Miller, Executive Director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics, stated in her May 5, 2004 testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission:

“Prior to the January [2004] election, we recruited ‘precinct technicians,’ a new pollworker position. We trained these technicians exclusively on the operation of the DRE. Their presence at the polling place increased the comfort level of our senior pollworkers.”

May 5, 2004


Cathy Cox, Georgia Secretary of State, explained in her July 2003 report “Touch the Future of Voting: Georgia’s Guide to Election Reform”:

“On Election Day, the technicians [provided electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold] were assigned specific duties. First, technicians assisted with the opening procedures in various precincts within their assigned county. Throughout the remainder of the day, Diebold staff roamed each county visiting various precincts to make sure the election processes were progressing smoothly. At the end of the day, technicians provided assistance with poll closing procedures as needed.”

July 2003


The League of Women Voters of the United States stated in its July 2004 report “Helping America Vote: Safeguarding the Vote”:

“Model Practices to Ensure Adequate Technical Support to Poll Workers on Election Day:

The District of Columbia Board of Elections recruited, trained and deployed ‘precinct technicians’ to help poll workers and voters operate new electronic voting equipment. Following a trouble-filled primary in 2002, Miami-Dade County, Florida brought in computer specialists from other county agencies to provide Election Day support to poll workers. Likewise Montgomery County, Maryland, called on county information technology workers to assist at polls on Election Day.”

July 2004

CON (no)


The National Academy of Sciences’ 2005 report “Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting,” explained:

“Help mechanisms can take a variety of forms, and all may be relevant to a given situation. Vendors may provide documentation (e.g., sets of frequently asked questions) to help facilitate problem resolution, provide answers over a help line, or provide in-person support at the polling place. However, consider the following:

  • For complex systems, documentation cannot be both comprehensive and easy to use. Furthermore, users must generally have some familiarity with the system in order to use documentation effectively.
  • Though help lines can be quite in effective in resolving simple problems, it is often difficult for a help line specialist to diagnose and provide advice on a more complex problem, especially when the specialist cannot see the station with the problem and the poll worker must describe the problem in words.
  • In general, in-person assistance cannot be provided as rapidly as when help lines are used (assuming the help lines can handle peak call volumes). Also, though in-person is usually the most efficacious method for problem resolution, it is also the most expensive and generally the least timely (because an individual must be dispatched to the appropriate location).”
  • 2005


    The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of Miami-Dade County (Florida) explained in its Sep. 20, 2002 report “Inquiry Into Circumstances Surrounding the Sep. 10, 2002 Election in Miami-Dade County”:

    “In addition to poll workers, county management also arranged for county personnel to staff the polling precincts to provide support. These positions were called Troubleshooters, Verification Specialists and Back-up Specialists.

    Approximately 40 county employees served in the capacity of Troubleshooters… From what the OIG has learned during our inquiry, there just weren’t enough of them.

    County officials developed the position of Back-up Specialist…to offer professional level support to assist with start-up procedures and data back-up at each precinct on election day… While this was a valiant effort by the County Manager’s Office, especially with the training assistance of the ERD [County Employee Relations Department], it was just too little too late.”

    Sep. 20, 2002


    The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a Mar. 7, 2004 story by staff writers Jeff McDonald and Luis Monteagudo, Jr., titled “Mishaps Run Deeper Than New Machines,” which stated:

    “At one precinct in Encinitas, poll worker Jennifer Hamilton and her colleagues first encountered trouble 45 minutes before polls were scheduled to open. When the turned on the device that activates voter cards, it displayed a Windows software screen – not the screen workers had seen in training…

    Hamilton used her cell phone to call the county’s troubleshooting hotline but kept getting a busy signal… ‘We got no help from the registrar of voters because we couldn’t get trough to the troubleshooting hotline,’ Hamilton said.”

    Mar. 7, 2004