2010-10-28 / Election

Election inspectors training to keep tabs on ballots, voters

cheryl.holladay@ houghtonlakeresorter.com
Nov. 2 is right around the corner. at the polling place, vote and go back to their normal routine, perhaps chatting briefly with an election worker but not do all day.

CHECKING IT OUT Roscommon Township Election Inspector Larraine Calkins tries out an AutoMark voting machine – which assists voters with visual or hearing impairments and physical handicaps – Monday, as she and her fellow inspectors, Barb Gee, Judy Lince, Andrea Randall, Sue Ambrose, Cindy Bidstrup, Linda Dowland, Tammy Muckenthaler, Amy Lince, Jenny VanDuinen, Joanne Young and Sue Beech, prepare for the Nov. 2 general election. Inspectors have many other responsibilities, including accounting for all the ballots in their precincts and instructing voters on how to mark ballots properly. (CHP) CHECKING IT OUT Roscommon Township Election Inspector Larraine Calkins tries out an AutoMark voting machine – which assists voters with visual or hearing impairments and physical handicaps – Monday, as she and her fellow inspectors, Barb Gee, Judy Lince, Andrea Randall, Sue Ambrose, Cindy Bidstrup, Linda Dowland, Tammy Muckenthaler, Amy Lince, Jenny VanDuinen, Joanne Young and Sue Beech, prepare for the Nov. 2 general election. Inspectors have many other responsibilities, including accounting for all the ballots in their precincts and instructing voters on how to mark ballots properly. (CHP) Election workers, officially known as election inspectors, and their township election day.

Roscommon Township Clerk Barb Stevenson invited the Resorter to learn more about the election process. In a report in last week’s edition, she explained how accuracy testing is performed on the Accuvote tabulators, the devices into which voters slide their marked ballots from their protective sleeves.

Stevenson further explained the election process by detailing how the inspectors must account for all the ballots in their precincts, assist voters who may have hearing or vision impairments, keep an account of any spoiled ballots and instruct voters on how to mark ballots properly.

Election inspectors are appointed by the township election commission, which consists of the clerk, treasurer and supervisor, and both county party chairs are notified of the names. While Roscommon County Clerk Ann Bonk trains the township clerks, the clerks train their own election inspectors, Stevenson said.

On Stevenson’s training agenda Monday night were an overview of team assignments, applications and mock ballots. She also planned to discuss how to override ballots. (The book is like a precinct’s diary of the date, in which every voter, the number of votes and remarks about spoiled ballots must be documented.)

If, during the election, a ballot is rejected, an election worker, who must stay 10 feet away from the tabulator, instructs the voter to place the sleeve back over the ballot. The electronic readout on the tabulator lets the worker know which race was incorrectly marked, so the worker can instruct the voter on how to correct the ballot. inspector can override a ballot if, for example, the voter marked the ballot for two governor candidates. Stevenson said the override affects only the race voted incorrectly. The ballot is spoiled if the voter decides to fill out a new one. Spoiled ballots go into a spoiled ballot envelope so they can be accounted for.

A common mistake made by voters in the primary, Stevenson noted, is to vote straight ticket but then turn the ballot over and mistakenly vote for an opposing party candidate.

One mistake voters may make in the general election is to vote for more than the maximum number of candidates – for example, when no more than two candidates must be selected in a road commission race.

At the polling place there are several stations manned by election workers who have specific duties. Each precinct has a minimum of three election workers, Stevenson said. Some townships, including Nester and Backus, have only one precinct.

When a voter first signs in, his or her name is checked on the poll list. Next, an election inspector hands out the ballot and explains it, making sure to instruct the voter about turning it over to the back side where more races and proposals may be listed.

After voting, another worker rips off the ballot’s top tab and the voter is listed in the poll book as having voted.

The voter feeds to ballot into the Accuvote tabulator from the protective sleeve. Stevenson noted that if there is a power outage during elections, the tabulators’ batteries kick in for up to eight hours. Ballots could still be counted manually, if necessary, she said.

Stevenson said voters who need assistance voting due to a visual or hearing impairment may use the AutoMark voting machine. Also helpful for physically handicapped voters, the computerized machine was purchased with federal Help America Vote funds. Each township has such a device.

“Most people who need assistance have voted absentee,” Stevenson said, adding anyone can use it.

The machine has Braille-marked arrow buttons with which to make selections. Through a headset the voter can listen to a computerized voice that explains what is on the screen, which is covered by a privacy hood. The AutoMark can also accept audio jacks and sip-and-puff devices (used by paraplegics).

To ensure privacy, a cardboard privacy sleeve is attached to the front of the machine with Velcro and the machine ejects out the completed ballot back into the sleeve when voting is completed. The screen can be viewed in high contrast or a larger font and lets the voter know if he or she under-voted or over-voted. It also alerts the voter if all the candidates were not viewed.

After the selections have been reviewed, the voter marks the ballot and the process is completed. If the voter needs assistance, one election inspector from each party must help him or her, Stevenson said, adding such voters often bring their own assistants. She said she likes her workers to try out the AutoMark so they know how it works and can better assist voters.

For absentee votes, election inspectors work in four-man teams, Stevenson explained. The first person opens the absentee envelope that has the voter’s information and signature, the second person removes the ballot and the privacy sleeve, the third worker removes the ballot from the sleeve and spreads it flat, and the fourth person takes it to the ballot box. The process, she said, separates the voter information from the ballot.

Absentee ballots are placed in the tabulator periodically throughout the day in increments of 10, Stevenson said. Sometimes an Accuvote tabulator will

Considering Voting Pro-Life? jam she said. The reason is because absentee ballots have been folded and tend to clog up the machine.

An election worker can physically reach into the box to flatten the ballots or he or she may seal all of them in a ballot container. The worker must then list the reason in the poll book and place a seal on the container. Each time the container is opened it must be resealed with a new number.

While absentee ballots are counted during the day as time allows, she said, sometimes absentee ballots cannot be run until the polls close.

For write-in candidates, the tabulator counts the mark, but cannot read the name, Stevenson explained. The Accuvote will separate ballots with write-ins, she said, adding the deadline for becoming certified as a write-in candidate was Oct. 22.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

At the close of the polls, Stevenson said, the count on each tabulator must match the number of ballots issued to the voters in the poll book. In addition, the number of ballots delivered to the precinct must match the number of ballots at the close of polls. (If it doesn’t balance, she noted, the contest cannot be recounted at the request of a candidate until it is balanced.)

The state board of canvassers determine the conditions for a recount, Stevenson said.

“Since the Accuvote, very few elections are overturned,” she said. “They proved to be very accurate.”

Stevenson said a clerk is not allowed to be at the polling place if he or she is on the ballot. An election inspector chairperson is to be on duty to answer questions from election workers and voters.

Voters have 30 days prior to an election to register. So, if you didn’t register to vote by Oct. 4, you cannot participate in the democratic process next Tuesday.

“It’s fascinating and a whole lot more complicated than people know,” Stevenson said.

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