Program impacts

Adding value to Missouri communities

Poll Worker Training improves polling operations

Nearly 20,000 poll workers served during the past August primaries and the November presidential election in Missouri. Thanks to a new curriculum devised by University of Missouri Extension and training sessions conducted in cooperation with local election officials, poll workers were familiar with the new mandates of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Poll workers were armed with new knowledge and skills, such as ensuring access for those with disabilities, providing provisional ballots and being sensitive to the needs of a diverse population.

Local election officials and their staff, along with 42 extension specialists for a total of 237 trainees, participated in training for the trainers in June and July, 2004. The training included adult learning principles and demonstrated the various training tools and methods. Over 96 percent of the participants rated the training above average or outstanding. At least 85 percent felt mostly or a great deal of comfort with all the topics for training. Election authorities were very pleased with the training and the materials and excited to use them locally in training for the August primary and November general elections.

Ultimately, the value of the training was measured by the smooth conduct of elections statewide and in compliance with the law. International observers in Boone County, Mcommended the quality of the local process they observed. In a follow-up, random sample survey conducted with poll workers following the election, respondents perceived that they were able to do most of the functions. The mean scale scores ranged from 3.48 to 3.80 (on a 4 point scale; 1=not well to 4 = very well). The highest scale mean was for ballot security (mean of 3.80). The lowest was voting equipment (mean of 3.48).

Peggy McGaugh, Carroll County Clerk, said: “It was an honor to sit on the board that helped get this all together. In a small county, you seldom have a program that’s so professional-looking. They enjoyed and learned from having visual aids. I would not have been able to put on quality training such as this without the University of Missouri Extension.”

Richard Bauer, Assistant Director of the St. Louis County Board of Elections, wrote, “Can't thank you enough for your efforts… in helping us develop our new poll worker training manual. The feedback we've gotten so far on the layout and the Extension Service's training film has been overwhelmingly positive. I sent a hard copy to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in Washington, and they requested an additional copy, plus the file on CD, to show other jurisdictions in the country what a good HAVA compliant manual looks like. The International Foundation for Election Systems also asked for copies in both formats.” 

Training materials

Developed under a contract with Missouri Secretary of State, the comprehensive state-wide training program for Missouri poll workers includes a variety of materials that can be mixed and matched to fit differing training timelines needed by local election officials. The training for poll workers includes the following topics:

  • Polling place procedures and accounting/ballot security
  • Provisional voting
  • Voter service: customer service, diversity sensitivity and civil rights of voters
  • Services to voters with disabilities and special needs

Materials include a trainers’ manual, PowerPoint slides, games, activities, videos, a poll workers’ guide and interactive CD/Web quiz for poll workers unable to attend training. Ideally, poll workers will attend a face-to-face training (approximately 2 hours) this summer and fall. Recommended class size is no more than 60 per session. Workers who do not attend training sessions can access basic materials in other venues such as video/DVD, CD and Web-based training.

To design and develop the training program, Secretary of State-appointed advisory committee of local election officials and representatives from the Governor's Council on Disabilities and the Missouri Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities worked with faculty from three University of Missouri campuses, regional extension specialists, a number of media and support centers.

Assistance and opportunity to serve local government

Through the Poll Worker Training Program, University of Missouri Extension enhanced relationships with county officials by (a) partnering to deliver the training, (b) revising of existing local training materials to incorporate new materials, (c) planning for delivery of training curricula, (d) offering technical assistance with audiovisual equipment, computers and PowerPoint, (e) providing equipment for trainings and (f) providing facilities for training. Regional specialists participated in the train-the-trainer workshops with local elected officials.

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