Poll worker training, voting machines questioned in Bradley County

Poll worker training, voting machines questioned in Bradley County

November 6th, 2012 by Paul Leach in News

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- An elections officer for the Walker Valley Precinct and three members of the Bradley County Democratic Party shared their concerns about poll worker training and possible voter machine fallibility to the Bradley County Election Commission on Monday.

"It's too much pressure [and] I'm not going to put up with it," said Doug Lecomte, election officer for the Walker Valley Precinct, who requested extra poll workers to help with today's election because of problems with at least one current poll worker.

Lecomte said the issue is that one worker has problems with knowledge of voter machines and has not attended training classes to keep up with current procedures.

"If you're not keeping up with who's [not] going to training and not taking them off the rolls, then that's your problem," he told election commissioners.

Commissioners approved the addition to two more poll workers -- one Democrat and one Republican -- to the Walker Valley Precinct for today.

Bradley Democrats discussed poll issues on a wider front with the Election Commission, based on personal experiences and complaints they said they had received.

A core challenge is "misdirection by poll workers," Democrat Jim Minor said. "What I just heard [from Lecomte] further augments the problem I'm talking about."

It's an education problem, said Linda Patrick, an official with the Bradley County Democratic Party. Based on earlier occasions when she worked at the polls, Patrick said she did not feel that she received adequate training for a novice to the voter machines.

"On-the-job training is not the way it should be," she said.

Patrick said she also had received a complaint from a voter who said a question about voter machine operations brought three different answers from poll workers.

"I think all of us will take from this some ideas and ,before the next election hopefully, we will address these concerns," said election board member Steven Crump, who expressed confidence in the county's poll workers.

As for Microvote polling machines used in the county, Minor said they are "antiquated dinosaurs."

"They've got to go," he said, asking that the election commission use an alternate system that would allow for tracking so voters could know that their votes were counted accurately.

Crump said changing the voting machines for Bradley County would not be a simple matter nor would it be feasible to implement a form of vote tracking. Creating a vote-tracking record, even for purposes of defeating glitches or fraud, challenges the underpinning anonymity of ballot casting, he said.

The county election commission does test the machines through a third party, Chairwoman Theba Hamilton said, and the process involves tracking individual votes and comparing them to automated tallies.

"We pay to have that done just to secure the integrity in our county," Hamilton said. "We don't have to do that -- it's not a law. We do that to put [your] minds at ease to know that when you vote for John Doe, that's who will be voted for when the tallies are counted."

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.