Why Md. Vote Went Bad: "Earn Extra $$!"
Maryland's primary day election fiasco has been variously blamed on machines that didn't work right, volunteer poll workers who didn't understand how to use those machines, and politicians and state bureaucrats who were too eager to switch to an unproven technology. But here's a new insight into the election day mess: The folks the state used to check on how well the polling machines worked were not computer experts. Heck, they weren't even computer students.
Nope, the people hired to rove around Maryland as "field technicians," troubleshooting and reporting any problems so the vote would go smoothly, were temps hired at bargain rates without the slightest experience with computers of any kind. In fact, they didn't even need a high school diploma--"some high school coursework" was the "education desired."
In the days leading up to the primary, a company called PDS Technical Services put help wanted ads on monster.com seeking "election help" who would be paid a flat rate of $400 for 20 hours of work over three days, including a whopping eight hours of training in "the new state of the art technology." That's a $20 an hour rate--not terrible, of course, but not exactly likely to get you many folks who know how to get sophisticated voting software up and running if it's acting up--even after eight hours of training.
PDS sought people who could meet certain qualifications: "Must be able to follow instructions. Must have excellent communications skills. Must be able to work overtime and flexible hours on Elections Day. Must be available the entire day before the Election - from Poll opening to Poll closing. Must have reliable transportation to travel entire day before and day of election. Must be able to lift up to 35 to 55 lbs."
As long as the governor is seeking answers to this month's debacle at the polls, here are some new questions: Did the state contract with PDS directly? Did county elections boards know who these rovers were and how thin their background was in dealing with the new computerized voting systems? Did county officials know whether any background checks were conducted on these temps?
By Marc Fisher |
September 25, 2006; 7:51 AM ET
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