AMES, Iowa -- Training for election officials in each of Iowa's 2,400 voting precincts is progressing toward completion through a program by Iowa State University Extension under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The program was expanded recently, based on the success of the intial efforts.
By the 2008 presidential election, more than 4,000 local election officials in Iowa will be trained and certified thanks to the efforts of ISU Extension Community and Economic Development field staff and area and county ISU Extension education directors, according to Alan Vandehaar, an ISU Extension field specialist based in Perry.
The Precinct Election Official Certification Program started in 2006 as a pilot project in Woodbury County and, in response to high demand, has evolved into a statewide program that serves all 99 counties in Iowa. ISU Extension developed the training in cooperation with the Iowa State Association of County Auditors, the Iowa Association of Counties and Help America Vote Act (HAVA) programs for the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.
Participants in the Iowa Precinct Election Official Certification Program attend three two-hour sessions. Precinct workers learn about the requirements in Iowa law designed to ensure open, honest and fair elections. Role-playing exercises and small group discussions of election issues are included in the program.
The Secretary of State’s Office contracted with ISU Extension to use $112,000 of HAVA funds for 90 training sessions over a three-year period. The program trained 11 Extension staff throughout Iowa to serve as trainers for county programs, and by the end of 2006, 1,798 election officials received training, about three times as many officials as originally expected during the first year. Eighty-five certification training series were conducted in 53 counties.
“Our original agreement was to train 1,800 election officials (600 per year) in 90 trainings over three years,” said Vandehaar. “Because of the level of satisfaction with the program, by both auditors and election officials in our first year, demand soared in 2006.”
Upon completion of the first year of training, two evaluations of the training program were conducted. Approximately 350 questionnaires were mailed to precinct officials throughout the state who had gone through the training and 271 responses were returned. Of the questions in which respondents ranked the program, more than 90 percent of the responses are in the “very good” and “excellent” categories.
As a result of the overwhelmingly positive response to the training and the demand for additional sessions, Vandehaar was able to renegotiate the contract with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office to increase the number of training sessions from 90 to 180 and to increase funding to $202,000 over three years. During the first half of 2007, 32 Precinct Election Official Certification trainings have taken place and approximately 750 officials have been certified.
More information is available at http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/peotraining/home.html or by contacting Alan Vandehaar at (515) 231-6513.