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Poll workers share ballot box woes
Slow vote count blamed on machines' steep learning curve

By Jim Bebbington   Dayton Daily News   11 November 2005

DAYTON ? Call it "Revenge of the poll workers."
Poll workers who toiled at the Montgomery County polling places for 14 hours and more during Tuesday's election say elections officials are unrealistic to ask for them to finish tabulating and closing down the polling stations in 30 minutes when the voting is done.

Tuesday night's vote count was plagued by delays as poll workers went for the first time through the many steps required to shut down the new computer-based touch-screen voting systems. In some cases, it took until early Wednesday morning before all the votes were counted.

Poll workers said the process was surprisingly time consuming. One said the mandatory training the county Board of Elections held for poll workers was disorganized and did not prepare them for what to expect.

"I'm used to closing out in 15 minutes," said Ernest McDavid, the presiding judge at a polling place in Huber Heights. "It took me exactly an hour to close out."

Barbara Hall, a 20-year veteran of Election Day poll working, said the training classes did not prepare them properly. Her session was overcrowded and did not allow everyone to go through the steps to shut down the machines and tabulate the votes.

"Anyone who went in without ever touching a computer would really be in trouble," she said.

Steve Harsman, director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, had said poll workers should be able to close down polling stations within 30 minutes. Tuesday's experience showed that is now unlikely.

"I definitely misspoke," he said.

An Ohio Secretary of State's office spokesman said the additional time needed to count the Montgomery County votes was not a problem. Overall, the voting and vote counting with the new touch-screen systems went well, according to Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

"It took more time, but that's OK," he said "It's a learning curve and it will get better from here."

One problem discovered Tuesday: Some machines began registering votes for the wrong item when voters touched the screen correctly. Those machines had lost their calibration during shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated, Harsman said, a process that could be done on site, but which no poll workers had done before.

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