Olmsted County Elections Officer: Job rivals its Middle East deployments – Reuters
ROCHESTER — Luke Turner spent six years helping to keep U.S. Air Force planes in the skies and another four years working to recruit others to join the Air Force before joining the county election team of Olmsted in 2020.
Ahead of its second regular election, the Post Bulletin sat down with the chief electoral officer to talk about the experience. Here is part of what he had to say:
Why the transition from avionics to elections?
After separating from the Air Force, I was looking for something in the public sector. … I was exclusively looking for county, city or government type jobs, just to continue serving in the public sector. … When I saw the opening of the elections, I thought it made sense.
I was really looking for the civil service and had checked out a number of other jobs, but this one really made sense in terms of the skill set and the ability to give back.
Was it a difficult adjustment?
How (the work) translates the most, I would say, is in the deployments. I was working on the launch truck, so when we’re deployed there are 15 to 20 jets taking off every day. During your shift you are on standby and if something breaks on the jet you have to quickly get out and fix it and get it off the ground. This translated one by one to election day. It’s really exciting and very fast, where problems arise that need to be solved now. It gives you the opportunity to think on your feet and do something.
You probably had less public scrutiny working on jets. How does electoral work compare?
I’ve been on several mobile deployments in the Middle East, and the 2020 elections were as tough as anything I’ve ever done in my life.
Then, to hear about distrust of elections is disappointing. You’ve been through the whole year and feel like you’ve accomplished something amazing, and then it feels a bit disappointing.
At the national level, this distrust has lasted for two years. How do you respond?
I really think if someone knew all the processes that we have, they would be 100% comfortable with elections. …
“Because of the national narrative, it sometimes feels like we can’t win the argument the best we can. I have the impression that we really won over a lot of people, especially the polling station. … We keep winning people over one by one.
Has your experience as a recruiter helped you build personal relationships?
(Being a Recruiter) develops you in hundreds of ways you wouldn’t expect, from talking on the phone to giving presentations. This helps in training election judges and talking to people on the phone when they call.
Without the experience as a recruiter, I would have struggled to get out of the door.
What concerns about the electoral process are most common?
Distrust of voting materials seems to be quite common, but we test them quite extensively. We run over 40,000 ballots through each machine before an election and make sure they match one by one. There are also four hand-counted constituencies after the election, selected at random. With the procedures in place, it’s thorough. There’s not much room for equipment errors.
What happens if there is a problem?
Every problem we’ve had since I’ve been here is that we’ve marked the wrong way – because we’re marking tens of thousands of ballots by hand and mistakes are popping up. If a ballot is incorrectly marked and the results are not exactly as expected, we will review the packet (of test ballots) and find the incorrectly marked ballot, remove it, replace it correctly marked and start the process again. process.
What if an error occurs, but no incorrectly marked ballot is identified?
“If that happened, we immediately went back to the supplier and got a new set of programs. The machines themselves would remain the same, but the media key programming would be replaced. …Normally we would like to do this as soon as possible to test downloads, but if that happens it will be all on deck and hopefully the vendor can get it to us within a week and testing will start again.
“I haven’t seen this since I’ve been here.”
Before each election, you also organize public tests. How many people benefit from it?
The public accuracy test is very infrequent, but we do the same thing every time. With any public accuracy test, we’re ready if a crowd of people show up, but that’s pretty rare.
Another occasional complaint is that people said they received multiple ballots two years ago. Has it ever been proven to have happened?
In most scenarios, where we spoke to the individual one-on-one, it was the request (for a ballot). Most people received a lot of applications (in 2020). I received four or five applications at home. …I imagine that’s most of the complaints.
For the duplicate ballot (sent by mail), we must have a completed and signed application on hand before sending a ballot.
Another national focus was on voting machines. Is it a local concern?
Most national histories were about Dominion. We use (Election Systems & Software machines) so this was not our type of equipment.
As for our equipment, it is never connected to the Internet, we have no modems, there are stand-alone tabs.
Amid the frustrations, how are Olmsted County election staff working to educate the public about local operations?
We’ve gone out of our way to create videos and invite people, just to show our process and be as transparent as possible. … I think the most important thing for us is to educate the public about what we do, the processes and the procedures and let them know that what we’re doing here is according to the books.