Miami-Dade County Is Schooled on Electronic Touch Screen Voting Machines
Training Miami-Dade County elction staff to work with Electronic Touch Screen Voting Machines
David Leahy, Supervisor of Elections for Miami-Dade County, Florida, was instructed to select and implement a new touch screen electronic voting system in time for the 2002 mid-term elections and to ensure that the election debacle of 2000 and the now famous butterfly ballot and hanging chad problems that plagued Florida, would not be repeated. Due to the cultural diversity in South Florida, that includes large populations of both Hispanic and Haitian immigrants, Mr. Leahy selected Election System and Software’s (ES&S) electronic touch screen voting system. ES&S’ system supports a tri-lingual ballot (English, Spanish, and Creole). Miami-Dade County is a large county with 264 polling precincts. To support its electorate on Election Day, Miami-Dade County staffs its precincts with between 2,500 and 3,000 poll workers and employees who oversee the casting of ballots on over 7,200 electronic voting machines.
With only two months until Election Day, Miami-Dade County needed to train an army of poll workers and employees that were to oversee the casting of ballots on the 7,250 electronic voting machines deployed throughout the county.
Miami-Dade County selected 2 firms familiar with ES&S’ Electronic Voting Machines to train its poll workers and employees. One of the firms selected was Next Technology Consulting, Inc. Next Technology was assigned over 1,200 poll workers and staff to train during a 10-day period. To accommodate the large number of individuals to be trained over such as short period, Miami-Dade County supplied a large banquet hall / seminar room at the Port of Miami for Next Technology to use. Next Technology’s Election Specialists determined that the ideal student-teacher ratio for the level of instruction desired by Miami-Dade County would be 1 instructor for every 10 poll workers and staff. This would require that Next Technology supply 12 instructors for the training.
To meet the desired instructor count, Next Technology employed the use of an in-house “train-the-trainer” program where Next Technology Election Specialists skilled in ES&S systems instructed other Next Technology consultants in the configuration, use, and troubleshooting of these systems. To validate that the necessary skills were transferred during the “train-the-trainer” sessions, Next Technology developed an intensive ES&S certification program. This certification involved real-time scenario testing of machine and software failures to challenge the user and a battery of tests including written quizzes, True/False exams, and short answer tests. Once Next Technology Election Specialists were satisfied that all instructors were sufficiently trained to conduct the sessions required by Miami-Dade County, the training sessions were scheduled. Two training sessions were held each day. The morning session ran from 8:00 am until 12 noon. The afternoon session ran from 1 pm to 4 pm.
The training sessions began with a group session in the morning whereby all poll workers and staff assigned for training that day were instructed:
• in the parts of the Electronic Voting Machine
• in the parts of the voting booth
• in how to assemble a voting booth
• in how to use the touch screen voting machine
• in the force needed to register a vote
• in the basics of the software.
After the group session, the poll workers and staff were broken out into groups of 10 and assigned a Next Technology instructor. Next Technology instructors provided hands-on in-depth education on:
• how to assemble and stage the machines
• how to upload the firmware
• how to connect and charge the battery
• how to clear and test the machines
• how to calibrate the machines, • how to check the time on the machines
• how to ensure that the public count was set to zero (0) on the machines.
In addition, the instructors showed the poll workers and staff:
• what the splash screen would look like
• how to verify that the correct ballot was presented with the proper appearance
• how to qualify the personal electronic ballot (PEB)
• how to validate the precinct code
• how to validate the election qualification code (EQC).
The poll workers and staff were also shown general troubleshooting and operational issues such as how to connect the public count tape printer, how to unjam the printer, an alternate way to print zero tape, how to resolve a flash card problem, how to open the polls, and how to close the polls. During the lunch break, Next Technology instructors created a variety of hardware and software failures that would present themselves to students on the ES&S systems. After the lunch break, the afternoon session began. This session was a live exercise of the potential failures that a poll workers or staff member might encounter and tested the students understanding and retention of the material covered in the morning session. The students had to successfully diagnose and resolve the failures created by the Next Technology instructors.
The poll workers and staff trained by Next Technology Consulting, Inc. were more confident and capable of resolving problems encountered on Election Day. They were able to perform tasks and to diagnose and repair problems that other poll workers and staff that had not been trained by Next Technology could not diagnose and repair. The result was that in precincts staffed with poll workers and staff trained by Next Technology, more electronic voting machines were available, more people were able to vote quickly, and the general feeling of happiness by the electorate was increased. The project was so successful that Next Technology Consulting, Inc. has been secured, on a contractual basis through ES&S, to handle all subsequent training at Miami-Dade County including specialized education on the ES&S iVotronic system to upper management and IT employees of the County.