Last updated on: 11/11/2008 | Author:

Do Poll Workers Receive Adequate Training to Facilitate Elections Conducted on Electronic Voting Machines?

PRO (yes)


The California Fresno County Clerk / Registrar of Voters, in a Sep. 3, 2008 report titled “Fresno County Response to Bureau of State Audits,” wrote:

“Fresno County prides itself on providing a comprehensive training for all poll workers, inspectors and clerks. Prior to every election the ROV [registrar of voters] recruits and trains a reserve pool of thirty to forty poll workers who report to the ROV office… on election morning to fill positions for poll workers who fail to report to work… If an inspector position is filled, as an example, the night before the election for an inspector that is unable to work we recruit from our pool of reserves…

Fresno County strives to train all poll workers, (inspectors and clerks). [It] offers hands on practice after the training class for any poll worker who is unfamiliar with the use of the voting machines. The county also offers a ‘Lab Day’ to go through the set up and use of the voting machines for any poll worker who wishes to attend.”

Sep. 3, 2008


The California Secretary of State Office in its “Poll Worker Training Observation Program – June 3, 2008, Statewide Direct Primary Election Report,” offered the following:

“Overall, the Secretary of State’s observers who attended county training sessions agreed that county elections officials did a very good job of training their poll workers. The majority of the 38 counties published comprehensive training manuals, which poll workers could use as a reference prior to and on Election Day. Most trainers engaged poll workers and held their attention with a dynamic presentation and the use of visual aids, role-playing, and other techniques to convey the large amount of information in an easy-to-understand format.”

June 3, 2008


Susan Bysiewicz, JD, Connecticut Secretary of the State, in an Oct. 31, 2008 Stamford Plus magazine article titled “Hundreds of New Poll Workers Trained and Ready for 2008 Elections; Will Be Deployed Statewide,” offered the following:

“We are ready and polling places will be staffed by well-trained poll workers. These workers will get a fantastic learning experience about how the democratic process works and will be helping to oversee its basic function – the vote…

I like to call the college poll-worker training program a win-win-win. First, it engages our young people in the Democratic process; second, it provides highly competent, energetic young poll-workers for communities throughout our state; third, cities or towns will be reimbursed by state and federal dollars for the cost of hiring those poll-workers on Election Day who participated in the college training program…

I applaud the leadership shown by registrars teaming up with local colleges to train more poll workers for Election Day.”

Oct. 31, 2008


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

“Because of new procedures and requirements for the touch screen machines, two more positions were added – the Systems Inspector and the Systems Assistant – who were responsible for the set up and operation of the machines. Each of the more than 3,200 Systems Inspectors and Assistant Systems Inspectors received 2 1/2 hours of hands-on training specifically on setting the equipment up, creating voter access cards, logging into the card-encoding devices, use of the touch screens, and closing down the equipment at the end of election day…

All poll workers received a detailed guide and procedural checklist to help them through the various processes of the day, from set-up in the morning to closing at the end of the day. Troubleshooting tips were mailed to the Systems Inspectors the week prior to the election.”

Mar. 8, 2004


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

“Beginning in September [2002], Diebold trainers began to fan out across Georgia to conduct hands-on training sessions for poll workers in every one of Georgia’s 159 counties. As part of its contract with the state, Diebold committed to train at least two workers per precinct – typically a poll manager and an assistant. These sessions, which lasted from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, provided an in-depth orientation to the equipment operation and procedures. A 12 1/2 minute training videotape, produced and distributed by the Office of the Secretary of State, also offered a basic overview of set up, election operations and shut down of the equipment. More than 3000 tapes were distributed statewide. In addition to the Diebold and KSU-provided [Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems] training on touch screen operations, all counties are required by law to train poll workers on the broader scope of duties, including voter ID requirements, checking in and accounting for voters, provisional voting procedures and other procedures, as well as assuring that every poll worker was trained on the touch screen.”

July 2003


The Center for Election Systems of the Kennesaw State University, in its 2003 report titled “Comprehensive Program Review Self-Study for the Center for Election Systems,” described the Georgia poll worker training program as follows:

“Poll Worker Training: This training will prepares [sic] the learner to perform any necessary function required in a polling place. Learning outcomes include: opening the polls, registering the voters, assisting voters with the voting stations [Georgia exclusively uses electronic voting machines throughout the state], assisting handicapped voters, detecting voting station failures and taking the corrective action, closing the polls, performing closing audits, and transmitting the precinct results to the county office.”


CON (no)


Tova Andrea Wang, JD, Vice President of Research at Common Cause, et al., in a Sep. 16, 2008 Common Cause Education Fund report titled “Voting in 2008: Ten Swing States,” wrote:

“Despite Florida’s statutorily mandated statewide training standards, widespread reports of poorly trained poll workers persist… a lack of experience with voting machines led to half of one precinct’s machines becoming inoperable. Indeed, poll worker training was partially blamed for the 2006’s thirteenth congressional district fiasco when massive under votes threw the race’s outcome into question.”

Sep. 16, 2008


The California Bureau of State Audits, in its Sep. 18, 2008 report titled “California State Auditor Report: County Poll Workers Training Programs Need Some Improvement,” stated:

“Our review of county elections officials’ training of poll workers revealed:…
*The eight counties we reviewed substantially complied with the content of the training guidelines when training their inspectors, but some counties appeared to only partially train poll workers in certain areas…
* Not all counties required inspectors to attend training or were able to demonstrate they trained all inspectors prior to the February 2008 election. None of the counties could clearly demonstrate how the information collected from the February 2008 election was summarized and used to update their training for the June 2008 election.
* None of the counties could clearly demonstrate how the information collected from the February 2008 election was summarized and used to update their training for the June 2008 election.
* Many of the counties were not able to provide reliable data that described how they resolved voter and poll worker complaints.”

Sep. 18, 2008


The Advancement Project, a democracy and justice advocacy group, in an Oct. 26, 2006 paper titled “Plight of the Poll Worker: Efforts to Improve Training and Support for Poll Workers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, and Michigan,” offered the following:

“While the shortage of poll workers has received extensive public attention, the training and support for poll workers is rarely scrutinized. Yet, as elections have become technologically and procedurally more complex, the training and support offered to poll workers have not kept pace. A glimpse of the chaos that can result when poll workers are not properly trained and supported can be seen in several 2006 primary elections… Serious electoral breakdowns have occurred in primary elections across the country even as turnout was dismally low… Today’s poll workers need to be computer savvy to use sophisticated technical equipment…

Recent federal and state laws have created a slew of new procedures for voting… These new procedures, coupled with the advent of electronic voting machines, leave little room for error… As a result, there is a dire need for intensified poll worker training and support. The current state of affairs, with well-trained poll workers in short supply in many jurisdictions, threatens to create chaos on Election Day. Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan are among several states plagued by rampant, recent problems at their polling places stemming from inadequate or inconsistent poll worker training, recruitment, and retention.”

Oct. 26, 2006


The National Academy of Sciences in its 2005 report titled “Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting,” included the following first person report of Leslie Sussan’s experience as a poll worker in Montgomery County, Maryland:

“Problems with the quality of the training, the conditions we had to work under, and the unintended effects of the voting systems themselves were very evident. Weeks before each election, election judges attended a mandatory 4-hour training session and were given a binder with instructions… The first training I went to was almost all lecture, with only about 30 minutes’ practice with an actual voting machine we saw for the first time. The second training devoted more time to role plays, but the presentation of what to do was fast and cursory, and most people had not read the manuals beforehand, resulting in lots of confusion. Little effort was made to explain the purpose of particular documents or requirements; the rush to get through ‘what to do’ left no time for ‘why.’ The inadequacy of the training was evident when election judges tried to use their common sense to fill in the gaps in their memory and understanding.”



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

“Much attention and blame has been cast by County officials on so-called unqualified poll workers. Some say the poll workers lacked the technical know-how to grasp the new technology. Others have said that because Miami-Dade received its iVotronic machines later than other counties, Miami-Dade was caught in a time-crunch with not enough time to conduct training. After extensive review of the ‘training’ issue, the OIG concludes that the matter does not lie in the caliber or technological experience of the poll worker, but is grounded in the absence of quality training sessions and written training materials. The fact that the County’s full shipment of iVotronic machines did not arrive until July is also no excuse for the lack of planning that should have taken place with respect to a training curriculum. Basic training could have taken place with the initial shipment of devices. Obviously, the absence of a quality-training plan affects the successful implementation of any such endeavor.”

Sep. 20, 2002


Michael Shamos, PhD, JD, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, in his paper titled “Paper v. Electronic Voting Records – An Assessment,” published in the 2004 Proceedings of the 14th ACM Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, stated:

“Many of the so-called failures of DREs in fact resulted from inadequate training of poll workers in using the equipment. HAVA has created an incentive for counties to rush to procure and begin using DREs. Some jurisdictions have done so without adequate preparation, and have seen failures occur during an election. When machines are tested at the warehouse immediately prior to an election and are found to be working, yet cannot be started on election day morning, it is much more likely that the problem results from unfamiliarity with startup procedures than a sudden and unexplained failure of the equipment.”