Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gushiness For Our Workers

I've compared before that elections are like having a newborn baby, where as time passes from the sleepless nights, only the more pleasant memories remain.

Yesterday's election worker training--the first for February and the first since November's election--reminded me of this.

Each of the 75 in attendance worked in November and while I still remember some of the pain--them, not so much.

We had a couple of polling places, for instance, that didn't utilize signs the way we cover in training.  This seemed monumental to me on election day, when I was at the pinnacle of my over-functioning self.

Standing in the front of the room, pointing out the correct sign placement, this seemed much more minor to me yesterday.

I asked about their opinion on the need for two poll books at all locations and didn't get a reaction.  I saw shrugs of shoulders and heads softly nodding no, not some sort of pent-up rage that I somehow expected.  I was anticipating the raising of pitchforks and a scream of "Hell's Yeah!" 

That didn't happen.

Listening to myself during training, I realized there were moments to point out what a good job they did in November:
  1. In general, they managed the largest test of the new photo ID law very well.
  2. They did an excellent job understanding provisional ballot situations.  We have a process where persons who request to vote on paper vote in a streamlined way, non-provisional.  If the worker makes a mistake, though, and the ballot should have been provisional, we don't collect enough information to be able to count the ballot.  That's bad and something we emphasize.  We call paper-ballot requestors "Gold Voters," so they don't feel intimidated by asking for paper, but we also stress to our workers that if there is confusion on their part, it's always better to have the ballot provisional, so we know it will count, vs. assuming it's a Gold Voter and be wrong.  Gold Voters must be in the poll book.  Our workers handled these situations exceptionally in November.
  3. Further, and on some level this is glorifying what should be the ordinary but it is a big deal, I have never had a voter call me with an issue attempting to vote where the voter wasn't, at a minimum, offered the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot.  That's how it should be, of course, but many things "should be" and I'm thankful this is "is" as well.
  4. Voter complaints, as we realized during our post-mortem review, were limited primarily to two polling places that were our two with lines most of the morning.  Those two had lines under control by 11 a.m.
  5. Our election workers received compliments from poll agents.  Poll agents (observers) often are called into duty at the 11th hour, but they also often are influentials--elected officials and former candidates.  We instruct our workers to treat them likely family, embrace them, give them their best robe and sandals, slaughter the fattest calf, and make them feel welcome.  I'm not sure our workers always went that far, but they did a good job working with poll agents.
  6. Our workers handled more voters at the polls than any other election in Johnson County history.  Because of our consolidation of polling places, traffic at each polling place was 50 percent higher than 2008's presidential election (and that election had a record 78 percent turnout).
I'm not a person who remembers to gush appreciation.  Further, election administrators, by their nature, tend to focus on what didn't work as opposed to what went right.  Eection administrators are typically the ones who might get a "99" on a test and instead of celebrating, dwell on the 1 problem missed.

I feel the need to be gushy today.  Johnson County is very fortunate to have hundreds of persons who give 14 hours for roughly $100.  The February 26 election may be an exercise in dealing with boredom, but last November was a test under pressure, and they performed terrifically.

More training is scheduled for Saturday.  Gushiness is also on the agenda.