Poll workers are responsible for effective management of precincts on Election Day, and so have the heavy burden of getting it right. When machines break down (as invariably they do), locations run out of provisional ballots or other materials, or a non-English speaker has trouble with the ballot, a poll worker must do what is necessary -- and what is legally-mandated -- to remedy the problem, fast. Otherwise, lines build up, wait times increase, and voters become further disenchanted with the political process.
To ensure polling place problems are kept to a minimum -- and resolved quickly when they occur -- the appropriate training is required. As the Commission notes, training programs vary widely by state and locality, and most poll workers get no more than 2.5 hours of training before reporting for duty.131 While we take no position on length of time required for training, we agree that poll-monitor training must be made more uniform and should be statutorily required in every state.132 Online programs with baseline information, created by states' elections officials, should be distributed to all jurisdictions, with included instructions that each county and/or jurisdiction add additional information to reflect the nuances of each county's system. The way trainings are conducted can be decided at a jurisdictional level, but state mandates should explicitly require that all poll workers undergo prescribed training before the polls open.
Each state in this study -- Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania -- has some statutory language prescribing training for at least some poll workers. While almost all of these states require training for all poll workers, Pennsylvania does not mandate it for election clerks, requiring training only for judges, inspectors, and machine operators in districts using voting machines. However, the Pennsylvania Department of State is creating a Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) user manual and online training video for County Election Offices to use in training employees on registration and election issues. We advise all states to adopt legislation requiring everyone who will be in a polling precinct on Election Day to undergo some form of state-issued training by the time the doors open.
Florida is the only state reviewed that explicitly requires poll workers, by statute, to undergo a "statewide uniform training curriculum." The remaining states employ a more flexible approach and require that training be conducted in accordance with materials like a "pamphlet provided by the secretary of state," or general guidelines that state training "shall include but not be limited to" various election administration issues such as operation of the voting machine, confirmation of a voter's identity, etc. While individual districts should determine the most effective methods for training their poll workers, there should always be a minimum level of training required for all individuals working the polls (volunteer or employee) throughout the state. Using that minimum requirement as a floor, individual districts can tailor the training to best suit their own needs (such as instructions on how to operate the machines, which may vary county by county).
The Commission also specifically recommended that states implement online training programs with interactive tools to ensure poll workers comprehend what they've been taught and can put it into practice. Most states provide at least some training materials on their elections websites, and some make training videos available online. High marks go to Michigan: its Secretary of State's site includes a vast number of training videos and guidebooks, in addition to an interactive e-learning center.
Other states make available video and guidebook trainings on their respective elections sites, but do not share interactive learning tools, if any exist. Kentucky shares a precinct election officer guide, Louisiana makes available two training videos on the Secretary of State's website, and Pennsylvania has a number of short training videos posted. Arkansas also shares a number of training guides on its Board of Election Commissioners' site. Alaska's Division of Elections' website provides a link for training handbooks and videos.
Other states could do more. Florida requires poll workers to attend at least a two-hour training (three hours for higher positions), but makes no materials available online. Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina do not make training videos or manuals available on their respective elections sites, and do not specifically address poll-working guidelines.
|FINDINGS BY STATE|