Poll watcher notes problems during recent Selma city election

Published 6:22 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

On Aug. 26, I worked as a poll watcher. The day started poorly when not one official poll worker was introduced as we met at the polling place. Even though it is not required by law, this would have been a nice way to start a long and stressful day. I will list some of the other problems I noticed at the polling place I worked at that day.

Not one election official knew anything about the voting machine. When I arrived at the polling place, only the ballot bin (box) had been delivered. The vote counter (voting machine) had not been delivered. The election officials did not recognize this.

The poll inspector questioned my right to work as a poll watcher, even though I had a written signed statement from the candidate, indicating I was a poll watcher.

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The oath was not properly administered. It was read, “I, the undersigned…”, and we all repeated, “I, the undersigned…”. I believe it should have been read, “I, state your name…” and each of us should have stated our name.

After the vote counter was delivered, before it was plugged in, one election official attempted to have all workers sign a printout that came with the vote counter. It is not proper to sign a document that you have no idea as to how it originated. The vote counter can not zero itself until it is plugged in. I believe the purpose of signing the printout at zero is to certify that the voting machine verifies and indicates the data pack has no vote count(s) stored in memory — before voting begins. Since 120 volts power the voting machine, it can verify nothing until it is plugged in.

Names of voters that had applied for absentee ballots were not noted or struck from the list of registered voters. There was a list of voters that had applied for absentee ballots, at the end of the list of registered voters.

One election official was extremely rude to certain voters. He addressed certain voters as if they were a pack of out of control attack dogs that he was attempting to regain control of. Thankfully another election official, an inexperienced one, had the good judgement and human relations skills needed for these duties. She kept the lid on a potentially explosive situation.

The provisional ballot box was open the entire day. It should have been sealed with only the ballot reception opening uncovered. Once the voters completed the provisional ballots, no one at the polling place should have had access to the completed ballots.

I was told by one election official that I did not have the right to view the voters’ poll list. He further stated that the voters poll list and the registered voters list were the properties of election officials. This contradicts Alabama codes 17-9-29, 17-16-26 and 17-8-7. Those lists are the properties of the citizens of Alabama.

Election officials did not know how to generate “Totals Printouts” at the end of the day. The inexperienced poll worker suggested they follow the instructions produced by the machine. One of which was, “PRESS ‘0’ IF OK”. This worked. When all else fails, read and follow the instructions.

One election official started removing completed ballots from the ballot bin (box) with no witness present.

Election officials generated 8 “Totals Printouts”. The Election Official’s manual

provided by ESS stated 7 “Totals Printouts” should be generated. One poll worker

stated that he could generate as many printouts as he pleased. I disagreed, and,

disagree. Since we did not and do not know all the details of data generated and/or

stored within the data pack, only 7 printouts should have been generated as the

instructions stated. Then, if the number of printouts generated is a part of the stored

data, the stored data would indicate that instructions were followed.

The poll Inspector did not deliver the completed voting material to the city. A city employee delivered the material. The instructions for this process, in

the manual furnished by ESS, are not consistent with Alabama code 11-46-24.

Codes under Title 17 of the Alabama code are not consistent with codes under Title 11 of the Alabama code. In an effort to eliminate contradicting information and minimize confusion, Alabama codes should be updated. Additionally, all information and instructions furnished by ESS, or any other company, should be consistent with information in the Alabama code.

It is imperative that our election officials receive training in the technical as well as human relations aspects of the voting process. The portion of the election that I observed was not conducted as I believe it should have been. Most of the problems I observed appear to have been the results of arrogance and lack of knowledge.

Maybe we should set aside pride, arrogance and insolence — at least long enough to seek help. We need it. We can and must do better.

Walter McCrimon