Election officers serve their communities

LEARNING CURVE: Election officers learn to work with electronic voting database.

Ellen Emma and her husband Vincent have been election officers three or four times since they’ve moved to Hollister. On Oct. 28 they attended a training session so they could work at the polls once again on Nov. 6.

Emma said the process is just something fun to be a part of.

The Sunday morning training session was filled with volunteers, some returning to work at the polls others not even old enough to vote yet and volunteering for the first time.

Angela Curro, assistant clerk for the Registrar of Voters, who helped host the session, doesn’t think it’s the $175 stipend that makes election officers come back time and again to San Benito County polling places.

“There’s a lot of pride in representing the community and the election process,” said Curro.

The training session felt more like an amateur improv show than a three-hour information session that prepares volunteers to oversee the country’s democratic process. Curro and her colleagues, Michael Parsons and Linda Parker, played out possible scenarios that the volunteers may encounter at the polls.

“This is so you’re comfortable with what you’re going to experience,” Curro told the group.

The group engaged with Curro as she asked them pop quiz questions throughout the time. Most often throwing out one like,  “Is anything trash in an election?”

“No!,” the future election officers shouted back.

Despite Curro’s reminders that all paper and packaging from the polls must be saved, the election officers will be using a tablet computer to check voters’ registration status and get them checked in. This is streamlining the process that required election officers to pore through reams of paper in order to find voters’ names.

The new system will allow data to go straight to the election office from the polling place.

While there has been a learning curve with volunteers who are used to the old process, Curro said all volunteers have caught on quickly after training and breakout sessions.

“It adds security,” said Curro, “because the human error part of the process is reduced.”

Following the group session, volunteers got a chance to test the program for themselves and run through different scenarios that are likely to happen on election day.

Unlike surrounding counties that are still hurting for election officers, Curro said participation in San Benito is always high and recruiting officers has not been a problem. This year the county will have 23 voting precints at 16 locations.

Just like the light and playful atmosphere in the training session, Curro said many of the polling places in the county are known for their fun election day rituals. She said often volunteers sign up and instead of requesting to work at a polling place near their residence they request “fun polling places.”

Even though the county has enough election officers, Curro said people can still sign up to be standby officers who will be called in case someone doesn’t show up to a polling place.

There should be five officers at a polling place in order to ensure workers get breaks, so Curro asks standby workers to be available at 5:30am in case they need to be sent out.

Curro is inspired by the new volunteers who are choosing to be election officers for the first time. She said, “they don’t want to listen to the news; they want to be a part of it.”

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