Thursday, October 23, 2008

Charlottesville Election Official Training

With more than 28,000 registered voters this year (up from just over 21,000 four years ago), Charlottesville is gearing up for record turnout on Election Day, coming up in less than a fortnight.

As noted here previously, anticipating the higher number of voters and working to make voting as efficient and manageable as possible, the Electoral Board decided to buy new equipment to supplement the Hart Intercivic eSlate machines that have been used here since May 2002. The complementary eScan system uses paper ballots and a digital scanner to read and record the votes on them. Voters will have a choice whether to use the traditional electronic voting device (the eSlate) or the digitally-scanned paper ballot (the eScan).

In addition, we have purchased electronic pollbooks (EPBs) that promise to make the check-in process smoother than ever. With the entire citywide voter list on every laptop, we no longer have to divide the lines alphabetically -- no more "A-L" and "M-Z", because any voter can walk up to the first free position at what we call the "RVL table" ("RVL" means "registered voters list").

As a consequence of having the additional, new equipment and knowing that heavy turnout will bring with it new challenges, the Office of Voter Registration & Elections decided that it would be best to put a heavy emphasis on training of election officials (pollworkers) this year. Some level of training is required before every election, but this year we thought it best to assure as close to individual attention as possible.

Instead of one big session for all of the pollworkers from across the city, we divided them into four groups. In addition to the usual training for Chief Election Officers, Assistant Chiefs, and Closing Specialists, we also have had separate training sessions for election officers from (1) Recreation and Clark precincts, (2) Walker and Carver precincts, (3) Jefferson Park and Tonsler precincts, and (4) Venable and Alumni Hall precincts. (Venable is now our largest precinct, as measured by number of registered voters, with more than 5,600 and surpassing traditionally largest Recreation.) Moreover, new election officers have been required to attend special training sessions in the registrar's office.

Tonight was the training session for Jefferson Park and Tonsler, held at the Carter Family Life Center on Cherry Avenue, which also serves as the polling place for Jefferson Park precinct. I snapped a few photos with my cell phone to record the event for posterity.

I will be a guest on "The Schilling Show" on WINA radio (1070 AM) on Monday, October 27, to talk about what to expect on Election Day in Charlottesville -- not just the expected large turnout but also the new voting equipment and streamlined procedures for voter check-in with the EPBs. My segment will be on sometime during the 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. broadcast with host Rob Schilling. If you can't tune in, there will be a podcast available soon after the program has been aired.

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