“Idiot-proofing” the election – the secret lives of poll workers

12:22 p.m.

So, there’s a lot that can go wrong with elections. Let’s not begin with hanging chads and pregnant chads and all…I am from Florida.

The effort to make sure things go smoothly today in Columbia starts with the poll workers, who are given very – very – specific procedures.

“The directions won’t say, turn on the (laptop) power button,” poll worker and MU student David Teeghman said. “It will be, first of all, locate the power button. Next step, push the power button. Third step, hold the power button. And that sort of thing. And it sounds like it’s redundant and a little extreme, but it really is idiot-proof and it makes everything a lot easier. So if something goes wrong, you can say exactly where it happened.”

This is why the computer mouse that a poll worker uses is labeled with a sticker that says, “mouse.” The power button is labeled “power.” And so forth, in the interest of any unsuspecting poll worker who might make a grave technological error.

At the polls at the Missouri Cattlemen’s Foundation, supervisor Lauren Morrison confirmed that “idiot-proof” is indeed the technical term used by poll workers for these precautions. All for the cause of a glitch-less election.

In other random facts about your poll workers:

-They are not allowed to leave their polling area from 4:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., so they must bring a full day’s supply of food with them. “You eat a lot to give you energy…we want to put a good face on the election for everyone,” said Robyn Allen, a poll worker at the Columbia Public Library.

-Their ages vary widely. Many poll workers in Columbia are college students, but the oldest one on duty today is 92, said poll workers at Memorial Union.

-They are paid quite well for a day’s work. This reporter almost wishes she had signed up to man an idiot-proof mouse today.

Eva Dou

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