The County’s purchase of the new voting system, ACCU-VOTE, prompted the 1999-2000 Grand Jury (GJ) to monitor the function of the new system on Election Day, March 7, 2000. The system uses an optical scanning device that records the voter’s choices as the voter slides the marked ballot into the machine. The purpose of this investigation and report is to help assure the public that the system was operationally sound, if in fact, that was the case.
The Grand Jury found that, in spite of several minor problems, the ACCU-VOTE machines functioned as expected.
Grand Jury Finding 1: The Elections Office is continuously challenged in recruiting volunteers to work the precincts on Election Day.
Clerk-Recorder-Assessor & Registrar of Voters Department (CRARVD) Response to Finding 1: Election personnel must complete a myriad of tasks for every election, but none is more frustrating, time consuming and labor intensive than poll worker recruitment. This task is the ultimate telemarketing effort. It starts approximately three months before each election (we could start earlier except that few people will commit to a project that far in advance). It involves thousands of telephone calls with countless rejections in order to recruit the 1400 poll workers that are needed for an election. The staff are literally on the phones for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Near the election this time increases up to 10 hours a day, six days a week. This is an unenviable task that takes a special mind set and commitment merely to recruit the required number of workers. Additionally, citizens conversant in the Spanish language are of special need and present additional recruitment challenges.
BOS Response to Finding 1: Agree. The Board of Supervisors can understand the tremendous challenge expressed by the Elections Office and the Grand Jury pertaining to the 20,000 phone calls that were made by the Registrar of Voters in the process of recruiting 1,235 polling place workers for the March 2000 election.
As evidenced in the following chart related to Presidential General Election registered voter and voter turnout counts in the County, voter turnout relative to registered voters has declined since the mid 1960s.
The statistics for the last five General Elections, detailed in the following table, shows a fairly steady trend of low voter turnout as a percentage of total population since 1980.
The above declines have been speculatively attributed to many factors, such as eligible voter demographics, weekday voting requirements, declining interest in the political process nationally, etc, but the fact remains that voter turn out has been on the decline for the past two decades.
The main purpose of presenting the information is to illustrate that voter decline could also correlate to deterioration in the number of willing polling place workers, thereby increasing the difficulty of recruitment.
Grand Jury Recommendation 1: The BOS should continue supporting the Election Office in their recruiting efforts. Expansion of this effort should include requesting the other county departments, special districts, special service organizations and school districts to increase participation in this effort.
CRARVD Response to Recommendation 1: The Board of Supervisors, as a practice, has not taken an active role in the recruitment of poll workers other than approval of the Elections budget. As elected policy makers the Board can assume a more supportive role by (1) urging county departments to actively participate in a poll worker recruitment program; (2) declaring county employees participation as good public policy compatible with its strategic plan; (3) encouraging the cooperation of employees’ bargaining representatives; (4) creating special recognition and incentives for poll workers.
County Departments have responded with mixed emotion. Some have pledged support while others believe the suggestion would be counter-productive to their missions, union rules and established county policy.
As important, however, Elections Division personnel continue to expand our efforts to find candidates for the poll worker positions. We have initiated contact with the County Board of Education staff to solicit assistance to increase high school participation and identify points of contact for the Student Poll Worker Program. We continue to speak to civic groups to encourage them to join the “Adopt a Poll Program.” This program permits these groups to recruit poll workers from their membership, and, then receive the stipend that is given to the workers for their service. We have, also, worked closely with the media to help recruit workers by publishing advertisements and writing articles that emphasize the need and critical role of the poll worker in the democratic process. Additionally, we work with retirement groups to solicit help in advertising the need and highlighting the community service aspect of the poll worker effort.
Within the last three years the poll worker stipend has been increased to acknowledge their efforts and assist in recruiting. Although these efforts all contribute to the recruitment effort, nothing works as well as the persistence of the elections workers using basic telemarketing techniques.
BOS Response to Recommendation 1: The recommendation to continue supporting the Election Office in their recruiting efforts has been implemented. The Board of Supervisors does and will continue supporting the Election Office in their recruiting efforts.
The Board also supports the Election Office’s expansion of its recruiting efforts to include requesting the other County departments, special districts, special service organizations, and school districts to increase the participation of their employees/students as polling place workers.
As recruitment increases in the workplace, there are personnel and operational issues to consider. For example: Ensuring that the work of a jurisdiction continues timely, and with high quality; providing a process to fairly distribute the work left behind by those employees who work at polling places; using reasonable processes for selecting which employees serve at the polls (some County functions require 24 hour coverage; therefore both coverage and overtime could become issues); whether to allow employees to code polling place time as regular work; what occurs if polling place work hours exceed the employee’s normal work hours; transportation issues to and from the polling places; etc. Therefore, careful consideration of all issues and impacts would be appropriate before taking action.
In addition, the Board encourages the Elections Office to investigate the ideas listed below:
· Seeking legislation that would encourage voter participation and/or polling place service.
· Evaluating the stipend that is provided to County polling place workers. Currently, Inspectors are paid $85, and Clerks are paid between $60 and $70, for a 15.5-hour day of service. This equates to approximately $5.48 per hour, and between $3.87 and $4.52 per hour, respectively, for a day’s service. Any increase would have a direct affect on the General Fund, and would also increase the amounts charged to other local jurisdictions. The evaluation must consider the number of Inspectors and Clerks required at each of the approximately 310 County precincts and approximately 195 polling places, and the number of elections that are anticipated to occur.
· Utilizing recruiting and retention techniques for polling place workers that address the current culture and utilize current technology. Publication resources the Elections Office may wish to consider to assist in this endeavor include:
Ø Brudney, Jeffry L. Managing Volunteer Programs in the Public Sector. Jossey-Bass, 1990. One of the few books to address the fact that volunteers are integral to government agencies. Introduces the basics of volunteer program development in the public arena.
Ø Ellis, Susan J. The Volunteer Recruitment Book. 2nd ed. Energize, Inc., 1996. Comprehensive discussion of how to plan and carry out an effective volunteer recruitment campaign for any type of organization.
Finally, listed below are a number of strategies the Elections Office may wish to consider in recruiting polling place workers, some of which the office is already utilizing. Naturally, some of these strategies would have a dollar cost.
· city and neighborhood newspaper volunteer listings
· paid ads
· human interest stories on the subject in print and/or broadcast media
· school newspapers
· professional association and club bulletins
· senior center bulletins
· employee newsletters
· church bulletins
· other "specialty" publications
· radio and TV PSA
· TV or radio "volunteer-a-thon"
· cable TV message boards
· celebrity spokespersons
· Yellow Pages ads
· posters on community bulletin boards, at libraries, grocery stores, laundromats, community centers, college campuses, etc.
· poll worker recognition program
· open house/agency tours
· talks at community or professional organization meetings
· buttons/bumper stickers
· public talks/education demos on Government Access TV
· public recognition of polling place workers
· booth at community events/fairs
· local clergy
· community education classes related to the need
· articles in a Department newsletter
· special announcements at community events
· announcements at school and court ordered community service programs
· place announcements on a Departmental Web Page or Site (“On Line” recruitment)
The Grand Jury recognizes the differences of opinion between the Registrar of Voters and the Board of Supervisors about the amount of recruitment assistance being received by the Elections Office. Apart from the recruitment issues discussed in the Grand Jury report, Elections’ new computerized system did eliminate delays in the reporting of election results.