Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Charlottesville Election Official Training

Before each election, as in every other voting jurisdiction in Virginia, the Electoral Board and the staff of the Office of Voter Registration and Elections in Charlottesville take several hours to train the election officials (known generically as "pollworkers").

This generally includes going over procedures for Election Day, reviewing changes in election law since the last session of the General Assembly, and hands-on practice with voting equipment.

Because at the upcoming election Charlottesville will be a test site for an electronic poll book, this evening's training in the basement conference room at City Hall included a presentation from Datacard and BEC, the two companies that are providing the equipment for the test. Datacard has more than 35 years' experience in the ID business, and Richmond-based BEC numbers among its clients the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, the University of Richmond, and various hospitals, businesses, and government agencies around the Commonwealth.

The electronic poll books (or "EPBs") will streamline the check-in process for voters on Election Day. The entire voter registration list for the City of Charlottesville will be on the database.

When a voter checks in, he will either give his name to the worker behind the pollbook or -- and this is a new option -- he will be able to hand the pollworker his Virginia driver's license, which has a scannable bar code. Scanning the bar code will bring up that voter's registration information. If the voter is in the proper precinct and has not voted previously in this election (either by absentee ballot or earlier in the day), he will be given a slip of paper that will be automatically generated by a printer connected to the EPB. Two copies are generated: One is given to the voter, who takes it to the JBC, which will issue an access code. The other will be used by pollworkers to keep a paper record of who has voted in this election.

If it turns out a particular voter is in the wrong precinct, she will be told the address of the proper precinct. If a person's name is not on the registered voters' list but she insists that it should be there, pollworkers know the procedures for issuing a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are reviewed by and counted by the Electoral Board during the canvass on the day after the election. Votes from valid provisional ballots are included in the official election results that are issued following the canvass.

In case there is an unlikely event such as a power failure or the EPBs otherwise go out of service, each precinct will have an alphabetical voter registration list that can be used as a back-up, so voting can continue uninterrupted.

New pollworkers will be trained on Saturday morning at City Hall. All pollworkers will gather on Monday evening for a final training session, which will include a break-out for each precinct so that Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs can work with their own staffs and answer relevant questions in anticipation of the November 7 election.

Here are some pictures from tonight's training of Chief Election Officers.

Charlottesville General Registrar Sheri Iachetta (rear center) instructs Chief Election Officials about recent changes in the Virginia Election Code.

Datacard representative Chris Wilson points out some of the features of the electronic poll book.

Chief Election Officers practice using the new electronic poll books.

Election workers check out a voter's identification page on the new electronic poll book.

A portable printer like this generates a slip of paper authorizing a voter to receive an access code to use the eSlate machine.

Paul Merrill has a report on the electronic poll books on Channel 29's 11:00 o'clock news.

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