By Wing Kwok
Utah County poll workers are preparing to assist voters in voting efficiently for the general elections Nov. 7, 2006.
Poll workers are required to attend a three-hour mandatory training called “co-work basics for poll workers,” which is offered by the county in cooperation with New Horizons Computer Learning Center located in West Valley City.
“Here, they learn about the laws [of the elections] and their responsibilities as poll workers,” said Bethanie Werner, a trainer for New Horizons Learning Center.
Werner teaches about 45 “poll worker basics” classes and 14 advanced courses for managers and assistant managers. Each class has approximately 20 poll workers, and each poll worker is guided step-by-step in operating voting machines and the electronic ballot clerk.
“We learned a lot, ” said Loralee Rees, a poll worker from Salem. “We learned how to set up the voting machines and possible answers for questions that voters may have.”
Utah is one of the early states to start using voting machines for elections, according to county election coordinator Sandy Hoffman. Utah County is one of the first counties in Utah to use them.
“The machine is really easy to use,” said Olga Talanoa, another poll worker from America Fork. “In California, they don”t have it. It [using the machines] is so much easier and more efficient.”
Rees described it like using a microwave.
“It”s self-guided,” Rees said. “You just have to push the buttons. It is self-explanatory and there are instructions to follow.”
Poll workers have five different titles. They are receiving judges, poll book judges, ballot judges, poll managers and assistant poll managers or provisional judges. Each title has different duties, and anyone can be a poll worker as long as he or she knows how to read, Werner said.
Poll workers work approximately 15 hours a day during the elections. They are required to be at their polling location at 6 a.m. in order to set up voting equipment on election mornings. Election days end at 8 p.m. After closing the equipment and counting all the memory cards, workers will return them properly to the county elections division in Provo. Workers are encouraged to bring a sack lunch, and the Utah County provides a stipend for each poll worker and an additional amount for attending trainings.
Workers are there to assist voters in using voting machines and answering questions regarding the voting progress. They are not permitted to give any advice to voters.
Werner stated that anyone could assist in using the machines except for those who have the following positions:
* Officers or agents of the union
When talking about the motivation to be poll workers, Rees said that it is a way to contribute to democracy and support our country.
Rees and her husband, Lawrence, encouraged students to learn each of the candidates that are running for offices and to be involved in the elections.
“It”s our obligations and responsibilities to learn about our government,” said Lawrence Rees, who is also a BYU physics professor. “Voting is important, knowing what you”re voting for is even more important.”
Utah County needs about 900 poll workers every year. To learn about how to become a poll worker and its duties, go to www.co.utah.ut.us/Dept/ClerkAud/Elections/ElectJudge.asp.