LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF NASHVILLE
POLL WATCH REPORT
November 4, 2008 General Election
The League of Women Voters of Nashville conducted a poll watching project for the November 2008 Election.
The project involved many League members and other volunteers observing early voting as well as Election Day
voting. Based on the data from observations, the League commends the Davidson County Election Commission
for its well organized and effective conduct of the November 2008 general election. This report summarizes the
project itself, including its organization, results of reports by our poll watchers, and recommendations for future
Building on its poll watching project of 2006, the Nashville League of Women Voters conducted an expanded
observational project for the general election in 2008. The primary purpose of citizen monitoring of the voting
process is to ensure that election law and best practices are followed so that voters do not encounter obstacles
to casting their ballots. In addition, poll watching offers an excellent chance for project volunteers to learn about
the conduct of elections, and for the League to gather data from the poll watchers observations that reflect how
polling places run, and what voters experienced.
We recruited almost 40 individuals for the project, more than three times the number of volunteers in 2006. We
asked all volunteers to attend a two hour training session held in October that covered the role and
responsibilities of poll watchers; a review of poll worker tasks; a mock “walk through” of a voter at a precinct; and
a review of our project communication plan. Our communication plan was to designate one of the two project
organizers as a central point person for volunteers to call with questions about their assignment or to report
problems observed at sites they were visiting. All volunteers were given expanded data collection forms to
record their findings each time they observed at a polling place. These reports have been compiled and form the
basis for this report. (See Appendix A for sample forms).
Poll watchers visited all 13 early voting sites; observations for each early voting sites ranged from one to 14 days
of observation. On Election Day, 37 poll watchers observed at 66 polling locations. Election Day polling places
were selected by volunteers for their convenience, as well as for our goal of observing polling places in all
geographic areas of the county. We also targeted locations with over 1,000 registered voters, although several
smaller sites were also visited. Because opening and closing of polling places are critical points, we encouraged
each volunteer to observe either one poll opening or one closing, or both. The total of 12 poll openings and 20
closing were observed on Election Day.
Our observers overwhelmingly reported that voting went very well. Many commented on the high quality of poll
workers, who were courteous, helpful and professional. One very enthusiastic early voting observer sent this
I saw people on walkers;.babies tied up in slings to their mothers' tummies; couples with children; moms
with children; dads with children - lots of children! One guy put his "I Voted" sticker on his little girl's coat
- she was proud as she could be! There were lots of poll workers, ten machines; no one had to wait very
long. Voters were quickly directed to the next available registration table, and then to the voting
machines. Workers were attentive and stepped over to help if anyone seemed to be having trouble.
Everything seemed to go smoothly! I was impressed!
Early Voting Findings
With the very high turnout for early voting, our observers found most polling places operated very efficiently.
Specific findings included:
In almost all locations, voters waited less than 10 minutes from entering the polling place to completing
casting their electronic ballot. The range of waiting time was from no wait to 1 hour.
Poll workers were generally reported as very professional, friendly and helpful; however there was one
polling place where it was reported that the poll officer arrived after 8 am on at least two days and
another where the LWV observer was banned from the polling place after voting hours and not allowed
to witness the closing up of the early voting polling place.
Three machine problems were noted including 1 machine needing to be replaced at Hermitage Library
and an unspecified problem being resolved in less than 10 minutes. Two polling places had printers that
Some voters expressed confusion in using the electronic machines in at least 2 locations.
Voters with disabilities received appropriate assistance in most cases, but at 2 precincts voters in wheel
chairs did not have the touch screen panel adjusted to a height allowing them to see it clearly.
Election Day Findings
A total of 83 observations took place, and again almost all polling places functioned very well. Specific findings
Voters waited almost no time to vote; most observers saw either no lines, or a wait of 1-3 minutes from
entering the polling place to casting the ballot.
One precinct opened about 30 minutes late because the poll workers were unable to setup the machines
for voting and initially seemed confused as to how to handle the situation.
Change of address process was greatly improved, but we had 6 reports of difficulties with this issue,
o In precincts without an assigned COA (change of address) clerk, poll officers consumed
significant time and effort on this task, diverting them from “trouble shooting” other issues
o In at least 5 locations, voters waited “unnecessarily” long times (30 minutes and longer) to
complete this process
o In one location the poll worker assigned did not know how to manage this task.
Machine problems were reported in only 6 of 66 polling places, including:
o 1 unspecified problem quickly fixed
o Difficulty printing the zero tape
o Insufficient machines for turnout, with 3 additional machines brought by 3 pm
o Problem with closing resolved by phoning machine technician
o Machine programmed to run on Nov 5 instead of Nov 4; machine technician sent to precinct
corrected the date and the machine continued to be used
o Report of “some machines being worked on”
o Machines for Precinct 21-5 were programmed for Precinct 21-4 and had to be replaced
Three polling places were difficult to locate—Precinct 24-5 (changed location to McCabe Golf
Clubhouse); 31-3 (Oasis Center); and 21-4/21-5(Centennial Park Art Activity Center).
Voters with visual limitations at two locations were not informed of or offered the audio voting machine.
There seemed to be confusion, especially at Eakin, about the ID requirements for first time voters.
Poll watcher was prohibited from observing poll closing by the poll officer.
Poll watcher assigned to observe the data processing board was prohibited from observing by an
We commend the Davidson County Election Commission for its excellent conduct of this election. Citizens voting
early and on Election Day to a very great extent experienced well run polling places staffed by knowledgeable
and helpful workers, and voted with minimal waiting times. Change of address processing was improved by the
addition of “super sites” and more poll workers assigned specifically to this task. The electronic voting machines
functioned without any major problems.
As a result of this project, we recommend changes we believe would improve both voting per se and the
transparency of the full election process, as follows:
Improving Transparency of Election Process
1. Access of Citizen Observers to Events Preceding the Election. Public testing of election machines
needs to be planned and carried out to allow easier access of citizen observers, and to more fully
comply with the administrative rules covering this activity. Rule 1360-13-.28 specifies the process for
inspecting machines for early voting, while Rule 1360-2-13-.18 covers inspection for Election Day
machines. We had hoped to attend these inspections but had difficulty learning of the exact date and
time, and in the case of early voting machines, once informed, no volunteers were able to attend
because of the short interval between learning about the testing date—about 3 days—to the testing
date. In requesting information on the inspections of machines for Election Day, the date was not
available; and when we called back we learned that the inspection had been completed earlier that day.
The League will plan in the future to request in writing the dates and times for both inspections, but
would also suggest that public notice of the date, time and location for both inspections be made
available as a message on the Commission website. This is a crucial step in assuring the public of the
integrity of the voting equipment line.
2. Visual Access of Citizen Observers to the Data Processing Board. Poll watchers should be given
visual access to the data processing board. Input of each precinct's electronic machine memory
cartridge data is a crucial step in tallying voting results and should be accessible to citizen observers.
While the rules governing this board stringently and appropriately protect this process, watching it is a
key part of ensuring the transparency of the election process. While one poll watcher had been allowed
to observe the data processing board in the 2006 election, he was unexpectedly denied access this
year. We urge the Commission to comply with the state regulations in the spirit of the intended rule.
3. Poll Officer Training. Poll Officer Training needs to include clear directions that poll watchers may
observe the tallying, recording and other procedures occurring after the poll is closed. Observation of
poll opening and closing is allowed according to TCA Title 2 Elections, Chapter 7 Procedures at the
Polling Place 2-7-104, Poll Watchers: “Poll watchers may be present during all proceedings at the polling
place governed by this chapter”. During the November 2008 election there were a few episodes of poll
officers not allowing poll watchers to observe these functions.
Assisting Voters with Special Needs
1. Visually Impaired Voters. All voters who are visually impaired should be informed of the availability of
audio voting equipment. This is particularly important as this equipment or a similar audio “ballot marking
device” will continue to be available in future elections. Poll worker training should emphasize that any
poll worker can inform a voter of this option, and machine operators should be proficient in its use.
2. Wheelchair Access. Machine operators should know how to adjust the “touch screen tablet” to a height
that allows voters using wheelchairs to read the screens.
3. Voter Assistance. More clarity should be provided to workers about appropriate and allowable voter
assistance. The LWV poll watchers reported differentt approaches among precincts regarding
assistance. Some poll workers were very "lenient" allowing family members to assist with no affirmative
request from the voter, while others were very challenging to voters about whether they were entitled to
assistance. It is important to clarify that voters who read and speak English as a second language and
have difficulty reading the ballot fall into the category of voters who may appropriately have assistance.
This issue may become more prevalent, and all poll workers should be clearly instructed that having an
interpreter's help is allowed.
Poll Worker Training. While poll worker training continues to be of very high quality, we would like to suggest
two possible improvements:
1. Simulation. Run a brief simulation of a polling place to offer a more “hands on” learning mode that may
help individuals who learn by doing vs. listening. Workers should have an opportunity to actually "do"
their job during training as well as gain an understanding of their role in the overall operation of the
2. Visual Aids. Distribute a printed algorithm of the steps for change of address as a visual map for poll
workers to use. Also provide a guide—perhaps a wall chart—on voter ID requirements in each polling
place to help resolve questions and misunderstandings.
The observations of polling places for both early voting and Election Day that that form the basis for this report
are summarized in Appendix B. If the detailed individual observations forms would be useful, please contact the
League of Women Voters of Nashville at (615) 297-7134 or email@example.com. The League of Women
Voters looks forward to continuing its efforts to support and assist the county election commission in its important