Highlights: by jfmKqDf



      Since 1994, Auburn faculty members have trained local and state election officials to deal with
       their ever-changing environment
      Auburn faculty members readily share their research and elections officials trade tales of triumph
       and adversity
      The work of Elections Officials has endured and may be more important now than ever before
      Any Election Day misstep is subject to intense media scrutiny, officials say they are nervous
       about ‘08 elections

 A poster in the Haley Center office of Dr. Kathleen Hale states one of the core components of
democracy in plain language.
 ‘‘If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.’’
 Hale, an assistant professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn
University, and other faculty members involved in the university’s certification program for
election and voter registration officials understand that ballot-casters won’t hesitate to complain
about any element of the Election Day experience.
 While the 2000 presidential election brought controversy in the forms of butterfly ballots and
hanging chads, election officials’ responsibilities transcend tallying the votes. From
technologically-enhanced voting equipment to maintaining order at busy precincts, the process is
in a state of flux.
 ‘‘Elections have gotten so complicated,’’ said Dr. Christa Slaton, director of Auburn’s Election
Administration Program and associate dean for Educational Affairs in the College of Liberal
Arts. ‘‘(Election officials) feel under siege, they feel under attack.’’
 Since 1994, Auburn faculty members have trained local and state election officials to deal with
their ever-changing environment. The Master of Public Administration program formed a
partnership with The Election Center, a non-profit, international organization based in Houston.
The resulting professional education program, consists of 12 courses, covers different aspects of
election administration and voter registration, including election law, information management
and technology, facilitation of voter participation, history of election and voter registration and
management concepts.
 The program started with Dr. Robert Montjoy, a former Auburn political science professor now
at the University of New Orleans. The work has endured and, according to Slaton, may be more
important now than ever before.
 ‘‘We will have graduated over 500 by the end of August,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s just the tip of the
iceberg in terms of the number of people that need to be trained.
 ‘‘It’s something we're committed to. We’ve developed a strong relationship with the election
administration field in all states. The only state I can’t remember teaching someone from is
 They have trained all manner of officials, from line managers to deputy secretaries of state.
Slaton said at least three faculty members can teach any of the courses offered in the program.
Among those involved are Slaton, Hale, Montjoy, Dr. Paula Bobrowski, Dr. Cynthia Bowling,
Dr. Clif Perry, Dr. Steven Brown, Dr. Shawn Schooley, Dr. Jim Seroka and MPA student
Brigitte Demasi.
 One of the most useful aspects of the certification program may be the give-and-take between its
members. Auburn faculty members readily share their research and elections officials trade tales
of triumph and adversity.
 ‘‘There are all these ways for generalists and specialists to get together and talk about problems
that are common to their practice of public administration,’’ Hale said. ‘‘What we bring to
elections officials is the ability to learn more than just how to work on specific issues that they
face, but how to put what they do in a bigger context.
 ‘‘It's accessible in terms of voter participation, the media and how difficult it is to perform such
an important public service in the public eye, constantly in the public eye. You're answerable to a
million masters and you hope that you have the resources and the capacity to do your job. The
people I've encountered in this program are absolutely amazing. They are such a credit to
democracy. They work so hard to get it right.’’
 These days, any Election Day misstep is subject to intense media scrutiny. Consider the recent
Hollywood interest in what happens at the polls. The HBO drama ‘‘Recount,’’ which began
airing in May, chronicled the five-week period between the controversial 2000 presidential
election and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that confirmed George W. Bush as the winner.
 A more fanciful look at the voting process will be found in ‘‘Swing Vote,’’ an as yet unreleased
comedy starring Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer. In a strange (and wholly
unlikely) turn of events, a presidential election comes down to one man’s vote.
 While buying the plot of ‘‘Swing Vote’’ may require election officials to suspend their sense of
disbelief, Slaton and Hale agree that some movies can be effective teaching tools.
 Hale said she draws from the movie ‘‘No Umbrella: Election Day in the City,’’ a documentary
of the difficulties one Cleveland polling place experienced in 2004. Slaton said that ‘‘Recount’’
should be a must-see for public administrators. The movie came out just after a May workshop
held on the Auburn campus.
 ‘‘It’s very accurate in terms of the legal arguments that were raised,’’ Slaton said. ‘‘I suspect
that many of them are going to say it’s accurate.’’
 Ultimately, accuracy is the underlying goal of every conscientious election official.
 ‘‘We want things to be perfect,’’ Hale said. ‘‘They can’t be perfect, but they can be fair and they
can be honest.’’
 They can also be something else.
 Regardless of their own political persuasions, election officials agree that the anxieties of their
job are eased when there’s a prohibitive winner.
 ‘‘I do know all of them are extremely nervous about the 2008 election,’’ Slaton said. ‘‘They
hope that whoever wins does so by a lopsided margin.’’

Written by Troy Johnson

For more information, contact:
Vicky Santos
Director, External Affairs
College of Liberal Arts
Auburn University
2046 Haley Center

To top