I went to Election training this evening, one of the 6 sessions we can choose from that Beaver County (PA) runs for its election officials (I'm the "Minority Inspector" in our precinct). This is now my 5th election (I think), so I'd heard most of the instructions before. But there were a couple new ones this election:
Beaver County recently passed a law banning cell phones and any other electronic communications devices, as well as cameras, in the polling place. We, the election officials, are still allowed to have them, since we have to sometimes call the Election Board during the day to resolve issues. But apparently they'd been having incidents of people talking on their phones about who they should vote for, while in the voting area, or taking cell phone photos of the ballot, etc. Also, especially, watchers may not use cell phones or laptops while in the polling place.
Pennsylvania passed a law just last night that Emergency paper ballots are to be offered to voters if even half of the machines are down; in the past we could only use emergency ballots if all the machines were down at once, which has never happened so far in the 15 years or so that our county has had electronic voting. That makes sense; I think the thinking is that in this election especially, the turnout is expected to be such that it might cause a hardship if people had to wait for a machine too long.
There has been a suit brought in a nearby county regarding allowing voters to enter the polling place wearing candidate-related shirts, buttons, etc, so we were reminded that is considered "passive electioneering" (as opposed to illegal electioneering), and we should allow it as long as the person is just there to vote and not drawing attention to their candidate. Of course as election officials we ourselves must be strictly non-partisan at all times.
They reminded us about not allowing any press to enter the polling place, which they feel may be an issue, especially this election. (And I'm thinking maybe even moreso because there was an (unflattering) article in the NYT last week about Beaver County voters, as well as one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning)
We learned that our county had about 5,000 newly registered voters for this election, and also about 1,000 absentee ballots (of which my kid in Australia is one). They told us that in the 2004 presidential election our county had 70% voter turnout, and they expect this to be a good bit higher. (I'm volunteering this Saturday to help make sure it's as high as possible.)
I'm pretty excited about the Big Day!