AMES, Iowa – Voters in Iowa encountered few problems in casting their ballots in the recent general election, thanks in part to good preparation and well-trained precinct election officials working at the polls.
Iowa was among the national leaders in an efficient and accurate voting process this year, state and county officials said. A partnership involving Iowa State University Extension, the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, the Iowa Association of Counties, and the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office developed the new Iowa Precinct Election Official Certification training program. ISU Extension staff trained more than 1,700 precinct election officials in 53 counties in a four month period before the November election.
“This new training program was very well received around the state,” said Pat Gill, Woodbury County auditor and chair of the auditors group that oversaw the development of the program. “We didn’t have any major problems reported around the state regarding precinct election officials. A number of auditors have told me their precinct officials, as a result of this training, are now more knowledgeable and confident in carrying out elections in their polling places that are fully compliant with Iowa and federal law,” added Gill.
Alan Vandehaar, ISU Extension community development field specialist who developed the training and coordinated the delivery effort, said the program was initiated by state and county election officials in response to the requirements of the Help America Vote Act adopted by Congress after the difficulties encountered in other states during the 2000 national election.
Vandehaar worked with Steve Mandernach, coordinator of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) programs for the Iowa Secretary of State, to develop the training and accompanying certification program. A pilot program was tested in Woodbury County with the assistance of County Auditor Pat Gill before it was offered statewide. Gill is chair of a statewide group that has developed a State Election Administrators Training curriculum that previously delivered training to election commissioners in 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Participants in the precinct election official training complete three two-hour sessions held at one-week intervals, with a take home examination at the end, leading to certification. Election officials learn about the requirements in Iowa election law designed to ensure open, honest and fair elections. Topics include how to better serve voters, opening and closing the polls, how to handle special situations such as provisional and spoiled ballots, use of new voting equipment, and how to work with voters with disabilities and other special needs, and requirements of the Help America Vote Act.
The goal of the program is to train at least one election official in each of Iowa’s nearly 1,800 precincts before the 2008 national elections. ISU Extension staff will continue to work with county auditors and plans to train an additional 2,000 precinct election officials around the state in 2007 and 2008.