Monday, February 27, 2012

Too Much, Too Soon. Or, Not.

Maybe I still have the Oscars on my mind, or maybe it was the Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial, but this month has reminded me constantly of a line from Ferris Buehler's Day Off.

Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.

So it has been as we get ready for this year's fourth election tomorrow.  It will be the second with the new state Photo ID law.

Thank goodness for Leap Year.  We'll need February 29 to recover from a very busy first two months.  About 40 percent of our county's voters will have had an election so far in 2012.   Our next election will be  April 3, but that's more than a month away.

That will give us time to organize our new envelopes, replace those that were damaged in shipping (it never ends), portion out our snazzy "Got Photo ID" balloons for the next set of polling places, test more of our voting machines, rewire the entire warehouse, and change every bit of our floor plan with new tables.

We'll also use that time to debrief election worker learnings from the ground related to Photo ID and the use of iPads to help steer voters to the correct polling place.  The iPads also have electronic searchable versions of our manual so workers can tap in, for instance, "Photo" and see the 10 places where we cover Photo ID.

I'm a big believer in knowing when to say, "Too much, too soon."   Sometimes, though, I don't have the sense to listen to Brian of two weeks ago.   Somewhere during the month, throwing the use of  iPads at our unsuspecting election workers didn't feel like, "Too much, too soon."  Some of the workers' looks during training Saturday suggested otherwise.

Still, this is the first step to the adoption of electronic poll books, where I hope we'll be within five years, and the paper and staff savings aren't insignificant.  The one-time savings isn't equal to the cost of the iPad, of course, and maybe not even over a two-year life of the iPad, but sending one street index guide to all of the polls instead of carving it up polling place-by-polling place is a big staff timesaver.

The iPads may last longer than two years, but it's worth pointing out that iPads didn't even exist two years ago.  (Really, stop and do a fact check if you must.  I bought one the day it came out in April 2010).

Eventually, the iPads give us a chance to revisit the use of wireless Internet at the polling places, if the facility has Internet, to check our site and direct lost voters more quickly.  We kept wi-fi out of our polling places because of voting machine integrity activist concerns in 2006 but now most polling places have wi-fi for their own employees who work at the facility.

Times have changed and, in the meantime, voting machines still aren't susceptible to being modified by computers using wireless Internet.  (There isn't any kind of wireless modem installed in the voting machine).

Tomorrow's election will be slow enough that our workers will have time to learn the iPad, learn the street index guide and, maybe, read through the training presentations that we uploaded in addition to the manual.  We will have high-school student election workers in August and November--one at each polling place--so if we continue on this path the students will be a support resource for the iPads this fall.

The story line with the media tomorrow will continue to be Photo ID.  From our standpoint, while Photo ID implementation is something we're watching, the adoption and use of the iPads is the biggest area of learning.