Thursday, April 5, 2012

Think Like the Jetsons, Live Like the Flintstones

We've wrapped up our flurry of five elections in 10 weeks and soon hope to have a moment to soak in things we've learned for adjustments heading into the August primary. trolling

We're still not done with this one, though.  We have one city council race separated by 9 votes with 13 provisional ballots to recommend being counted on Monday.

It would be very unlikely that the 13 flip the outcome (that would have to number 13-0, 12-1, or 11-2; anything else would result in a delta of 8 or fewer).  But the race could tighten to the point that a recount is requested.  If there was a tie, the winner is decided by coin toss, and that has happened several times in my seven years here.

In Kansas, there is no automatic recount provision.  In November state races, a recount, if requested, would be free to the losing candidate if the difference is .5 percent or smaller.

In this case, a recount could be requested and the person requesting puts up the cost of the recount, which is refunded if the actual outcome changes and the once losing candidate becomes the winner (or there is a tie, to be decided by coin toss).

Since Tuesday, I believe I have talked with every stakeholder in this race.  My approach in elections that are close heading into the canvass is that I tell each candidate everything, of course, including any discussions I've had with the other candidate.

Having been a candidate for office before, I have a sense for how hard they've worked and what it's like to have your life in front of the public for all to see and comment.  Many people talk about running for office but few do, and those who do are very brave.  Most have entered politics for all the right reasons and I admire them.

But, all that activity has kept me from at least giving an update here, making this post primarily a, "No, I haven't stopped blogging," piece.

On the key learning front, I've learned that we have to change the structure of our training.  There is just too much to cover now in three hours.  Adding to the length of training creates a couple of issues, primarily financial (we'd have to pay more and we don't have that budgeted) and administrative--I'm not sure I have another 10 hours to give in July and again in October by increasing each class by an hour.

Instead, we need to change the structure.  I've got some ideas, but primarily we need more visuals and less talking in the lecture portion to compress the time and maintain knowledge retention on the part of our new workers.  More on that soon.

The pace of the last week has kept me from taking photos of the logistics of our operation around the election, and I wanted to give you a flavor of some of that before we head into August.  I've taken photos and pasted them below, but they really reflect the slower volume of this election, which covered just one-fourth of our 365,000 voters.

In August, I'll paste similar photos that give you more of a sense of the magnitude.   For now, I've inserted just a few random thoughts and notes, including an explanation of the blog headline.

Suitcases of supplies are sent out with voting machines
before election day.  Here, the suitcases are staged,
awaiting pickup.
Johnson County is fortunate in that most polling place
locations are already fully compliant with the
Americans with Disabilities Act.  Only a few places
in the older parts of the county require a ramp or something
to prop a door open for a wheelchair.  Previously, we've
relied on the county's mowing crew to deliver these
separately, but they were spread too thin to commit
to us this election, so we sent the ramps out with the
supplies, using a moving company.  We've used
the same moving company (below) for the entire
7 years I've been here.  They've been selected by
competitive bid three times and do a good job for us.

Different high-school organizations work
election nights as fund-raisers.  This time, the Olathe
North National Honor Society sent workers to
check in voting results and supplies.  We bring back
all results to our office (we don't modem or network).
This approach is the culprit if you are awaiting results
and are frustrated that they aren't up yet.  Physical
delivery (Sneakernet) ensures that our results cannot
be electronically intercepted.  Our tabulator is not connected
to an Internet or Intranet and the results we put on our website
are burned to a compact disc (instead of using a flash drive)
for 100-percent assurance that nothing from the outside
world could be uploaded to the tabulator.  "Think Like the
Jetsons, Live Like the Flintstones," is our motto
when it comes to election integrity and security.
I try very hard to stay atop IT and security trends
and issues, but we believe one way to
protect the integrity of our elections
is to keep the process as reasonably
low-tech as possible.  Biblical monks, for instance,
 were never hacked (although they were poisoned,
but that's one thing we really don't worry about).
 We don't go total Flintstone, but we do have the
proverbial walled garden when
it comes to our IT.

Results come back first, then other supplies.