Poll inspector who arrived to work drunk symbolizes human factor of election problems

An election inspector who arrived drunk at a South of Market polling place Tuesday prevented normal voting from starting until more than an hour after polls were due to open, reports indicate.

While the equipment problems that plagued many of The City’s polling places can be eliminated with new machinery, the large amount of human errors might be harder for The City to correct.

When the inspector assigned to precinct 3627 at 330 Clementina St. in District 6 came too drunk to work at 7 a.m., the department sent out a replacement, poll workers said Tuesday. That inspector called in and said he didn’t know how to do the job, so the elections department sent 13-year veteran Lee Ann Tanape to oversee the site.

Workers commenced emergency voting at the site, but regular voting did not begin until after 8 a.m., according to department records.

The San Francisco Department of Elections reported that 3,333 people worked on the election. Nearly all of those are temporary workers hired to run polling places. Inspectors are paid $150 for their voting-day work, which often takes 12 hours. Clerks are paid $120, the department reported.

Elections department chief John Arntz said poll workers receive 2.5 hours of unpaid training, conducted by a temporary worker, prior to election day.

Arntz said further training might not be realistic. “These people are essentially volunteers,” he said Friday. “They’re taking time out of their life to go to a training class, and would they go to a second training class?”

The solution, Arntz said, would be for The City to hire permanent trainers. “Give us permanent positions so that we can have a staffing structure. Give us continuity from election to election,” Arntz said.

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