Workers will tend to machines
By LISA GREENE, Times Staff Writer
Poll workers with extra training will supervise Pinellas County's new touch screen voting machines to make sure no mistakes are made in the September primary, elections supervisor Deborah Clark said Friday.
Those workers will be "machine managers," designated to turn on and test the machines before the polls open, answer voters' questions about the machines throughout the day, and retrieve the votes at the end of the day, Clark said.
The new job is designed to help avoid such problems as the glitches that popped up in March's Clearwater election, the first Pinellas test of the machines.
Overall, that election was a success. Voters gave high marks to the new machines, and elections officials counted results quickly, with few errors. But there were some problems, and Clark said she plans to avoid them in Sept. 10's primary election, the first countywide test of the electronic voting machines.
In Clearwater on election night, poll workers incorrectly removed three electronic cartridges containing voting results, so that the votes weren't recorded.
Training classes for poll workers have repeatedly discussed the removal procedure, so that the mistake doesn't happen again, Clark said. The machine managers are getting extra training with the machines, she said.
In addition to recording votes on an electronic cartridge, each machine also printed out a paper tally of the voting results, so the problem didn't change or delay results. Vote tabulators used the paper count instead.
Two other problems from the Clearwater election will be fixed, Clark said. First, vote results will be posted on the elections' office Web site as they come in, not just at the end of the night, as they were in March.
"We're going to do that in real time," she said.
Also, more workers will count absentee ballots. Workers in March overlooked three absentee ballots until the next day.
Voters pick candidates on the new machines by touching the computer screen, much like one would use an ATM. Pinellas bought the $14-million machines after the contentious 2000 presidential election. After that, state legislators said Florida voters could no longer vote with punch cards.
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