Almost 15,000 voters will be going to the polls during a period of 660 minutes on Wednesday, 20 May. At an average of three minutes per voter, the balloting process could easily become paralysed.
Elections Office staff members are making sure it doesn’t. Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez and his deputies are deploying poll workers efficiently and training them effectively, so there should be no surprises on Election and Referendum Day.
Round one of election training for 2009 took place last week, with workers in the electoral district of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman meeting on Monday. West Bay workers had a three-hour session on Tuesday evening; George Town on Wednesday; Bodden Town, East End and North Side met Thursday.
Two more rounds of training sessions are scheduled for election workers, with time available for extra sessions if necessary. Referendum training has not yet started.
There are 18 Polling Division locations and each is further divided into stations, so that the highest number of voters expected at any station is no more than 553, Deputy Supervisor Colford Scott told trainees last week.
Each station has three regular voting booths plus one with wheel chair access, so up to four people could be voting at any one time. All voters can therefore be accommodated within the 660 minutes the polls are open.
Mr. Gomez explained that experience at previous elections had shown it takes about three minutes for each voter to present him/herself to the polling clerk, have the correct identification information recorded, receive a ballot from the presiding officer along with instructions on the marking procedure, go into the voting booth and mark the ballot, return the ballot to the presiding officer for removal of a stub and, finally, receive the ballot back for deposit into the ballot box.
Polling stations have been arranged so that the voter exits the election station and almost immediately enters the referendum station. There, the process is repeated. But since this ballot contains one question with one yes or no answer, the time needed to mark the ballot should be much shorter, Mr. Gomez said.
The first evening’s training concentrated on the equipment each polling station must have. The equipment ranges from the ballot box itself and a poll book for recording the names of persons who voted to an envelope for spoiled ballots and a Bible in case anyone has to take an oath.
Election workers have already sworn or affirmed that they will carry out their duties ‘without partiality, fear, favour or affection’.
Training includes watching a video of the complete polling procedure, setting up a polling station, dealing with other election workers who take the role of voters coming to the polls and then closing the station. Ballots used for training sessions are in the prescribed format but list fictitious names.
Future training sessions will repeat the process, adding enactments of various situations that could arise.
The election team is constantly working to improve training techniques. Last week, Chief Logistics Officer Wintroy Randal videoed Mr. Scott as he recorded entries in a poll book. The images appeared on a full-size screen so that polling clerks could see immediately how their own entries should look.
‘There is no second opportunity to do it right,’ Mr. Gomez told each group as he summarised their duties. He said he had been involved in elections for 30 years and there had not been any major problems because workers had been trained properly.
‘You all are very professional at your jobs,’ he told them. In addition, first-time workers will be stationed alongside those with previous experience.