Polling problems hold election back; Officials say it's a learning experience

NOW: Polling problems hold election back; Officials say it’s a learning experience

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. --- Poll workers across St. Joseph County began thinking ahead to the next election on Wednesday after a series of problems were reported at several polling locations across the county.

City officials told ABC 57 that they are already thinking of ways to prevent those issues from happening again.

New polling technology means a new experience for both voters and poll workers, which can lead to technological problems like those seen across Michiana on Tuesday.

Sharyl Dawes, a poll worker at the Pearley location, told ABC 57 that the station had several problems throughout the day. Issues began when polls opened at 6 a.m. and occurred even once when Mayor-elect James Mueller was in line to vote.

“We could not get this OVO started,” said Dawes. “So tech support had to come out and help us get that started and then during the day our, well—they’re iPads—we had it froze about 3 times in 20 minutes, but the longest any voter ever waited was probably 10 minutes,” explained Dawes.

The Pearley polling station also had problems with the OpenElect voting machine (OVO) towards the end of the day when poll workers needed a document to close out the machine and transfer the ballots onto a flash drive.

“Very efficient, very quick” said Dawes. “Except our packet, our closing packet was missing the document,” said Dawes.

Poll workers attend a single 2-hour training session to learn how to work the polls and the voter equipment.

Rita Glenn, St. Joseph County Clerk, told ABC 57 that even still that does not mean there will not be any problems.

“I think if we don’t expect problems, we’re in denial ourselves,” said Glenn. “So I think we were trying to anticipate what problems we might have and what we didn’t have,” said Glenn.

Both Dawes and Glenn agreed that it is all a learning process; they are both confident that the voters will feel more comfortable with the new equipment next year.

“I think now the voters will be a little more familiar with the equipment,” said Dawes. “Not that they had anything to do with it—but, you know, everyone’s just more familiar but like I said those of us who learned this time through, we’ll be back and on-site when brand new poll workers come in that haven’t done it before,” said Dawes.

After hearing voters’ concerns and additional training for poll workers, Glenn hopes for fewer issues during the 2020 election.

“Next year we’ll be introducing all of the polling machines to all of the polling sites,” said Glenn. “So we’ll have to have a little bit more training and we encourage people to want to work the polls. I know that’s a problem most counties do have is filling their polls,” said Glenn.

Both Glenn and Dawes shared that the city could always use more poll workers and that the potential polling issues should not discourage community members from deciding to work the election polls.

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