Poll worker school starts today

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Starting today, poll workers school is in session.

A one-hour course for those managing the June 6 primary elections will be held at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Dallas County Courthouse, said Probate Judge Johnny Jones.

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“It’s imperative for poll workers to attend because there are some changes in what they’re probably used to doing,” Jones said.

Poll workers will receive training on a new device for handicapped voters – the AutoMARK voter assist terminal, “a ballot-marking system designed to provide privacy and accessibility to voters who are blind, vision-impaired or have a disability or condition that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot in the usual way.”

The system also provides language assistance to voters who are more comfortable speaking their native tongue or have reading difficulties.

Voters will make candidate selections on the AutoMARK using a touch screen and the system then marks the ballot choices. Blind or visually impaired voters will have the option of listening to candidate choices through headphones and a Braille system, Jones added. After selections are made, a precinct-based optical scan machine reads the ballot, said Probate Court Chief Clerk Suzanne Ingram. The AutoMARK does not tally or store votes.

Jones said an AutoMARK will be accessible in all 31 voting precincts. With the new system, Dallas County now meets the requirements of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which aims to address disabled accessibility and the error rates of voting systems.

Jones said poll workers will earn an extra $25 for taking the course. Poll workers earn $75 for working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. The Alabama State Legislature recently increased poll workers pay by $15 per person.

The Dallas County Commission approved the legislation at its last meeting May 22, where Jones said the workers are “very much deserving” of the raise.