Last year, the University of Central Florida, Valencia Community College and the Orange County Supervisor of Elections received a $75,000 two-year grant from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to develop a Second Life-based virtual polling center designed to aid in the training of poll workers for upcoming elections.
The group built a polling center that resides on the virtual campus of UCF, located within the virtual world of Second Life. The virtual training coincides with a civic engagement course at UCF, which educates students on how to become more politically involved using social media tools.
Michelle Gardner, UCF’s Florida Institute of Government administrative-services coordinator (and fellow MuniGover!), was instrumental in bringing the hands-on educational component of virtual worlds to the project. Last May, she invited several of us in the MuniGov organization to participate in a preview demonstration of the poll-worker project. We served as “voters” to help the student volunteers practice their poll working skills.
Although this new simulator method of poll-worker training is not meant to completely replace the face to face training component, it has greatly increased interest in the training program among younger volunteers. Many students of the civic engagement course are also volunteering at the polls. According to a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel, there will be nearly 50 Second Life students who will serve as poll workers in next week’s elections.Volunteers first take part in the traditional training, which is then supplemented by hands-on simulations in the virtual polling simulator.