Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fuzzy but Depressing Math

Did you know that 37.1 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot?

It's true.  I just calculated that.

The relevance to that statistic comes in the spreadsheet I've posted below.  There are likely some aspects of fuzzy math here and the cliche, "You can use statistics to say anything," comes to mind.

Still, these numbers came from the county's budget group and you'll see that the election office has had budgets cut, by percentage, more than any other department since 2006.

I got these yesterday as we considered more costs for 2013, when we likely will lose two positions to retirement.  We're a poorly timed illness away from disaster as it is, and how could anyone conclude differently when looking at the sheet below?

I just talked with someone from a group where I'll be speaking tomorrow night and one of the questions she posed about Photo ID involved outreach.  Specifically, she said our online materials were very good but asked what we were doing to reach people who don't have computers?

The same question applies, I replied, for any outreach related to elections, not just Photo ID.

We have no money.  I've learned to barter with nothing but goodwill.  We stumble across talented groups and persons who want to be part of the election process because they believe in the importance of elections.  These people, like Whitworth Ballou, the agency we used in 2008 and the Secretary of State has enlisted this cycle, perform outreach tasks for us for pennies on the dollar.

At some point, it's all going to break.

The chart below gives an indication as to why.  The large chunks taken are from years with November elections and, as I said about fuzzy math, some of that likely came back to our department as the year ended.  It was placed in something called "countywide," which really is a rainy day fund for the county.  I know we tapped into it in 2010.  On the other hand, I'm sure there are extenuating circumstances related to the cuts in other departments, too.

Still, if only half this amount was cut (and it was definitely more than half), we'd still be among the cut leaders.