Splitting shifts, paying poll workers more could help improve efficiency at the polls

Published: Jun. 11, 2014 at 9:16 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2014 at 9:16 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Overall, the primary was a smooth run.

But that doesn't mean Tuesday was problem-free at the polls in Richland County.

A few machines didn't work, some precincts didn't open on time, and some poll workers didn't show up either.

It was a rocky start but ultimately a strong finish.

"We can report that the election was smooth, it was fair, and it was efficient," said Interim Richland County Elections Director Samuel Selph.

But after all the ballots were in Selph said there's room for improvement.

"We need to educate our poll workers a little better," Selph said. "We need to educate our poll clerks. We need to educate ourselves just a little bit more."

On Election Day, there were problems at 20 precincts.

Seven machines didn't work.

But Selph said the biggest problems were human errors.

Either poll workers not showing up for duty or needing more training on the machines.

"There's nothing hard about the job," said former poll clerk Alan Roblee. "It's just you have to be able to deal with the public."

While Selph suggests Tuesday's election indicates the need for younger, more tech-savvy poll workers, Roblee said that's not necessarily the case.

"None of it is rocket science," Roblee said. "Pretty much, they'll give you a book, and everything's all laid out. Step one. Step two. Step three. Step four."

Selph said it's tough to recruit and said the office plans to redouble its recruiting efforts in places like high schools, civic clubs, and athletic clubs.

With the 25 additional precincts this time around Selph said poll-workers were stretched.

Roblee agrees and said the office should look at splitting-shifts even paying poll-workers more.

"Young, old, or between -- they just need more people," Roblee said.

Selph said it's hard to have a flawless election but he hopes to have a lot of the issues fixed before the next election.

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