Sunday, June 24, 2012

Take That, Redistricting!

I'm learning that in the 2012 social media world of elections, silence can be deafening.

With Twitter and Facebook, I try to balance being the Town Crier, providing too much information, with being some sort of wise owl, typing nuggets at just the right point.

Fewer, good tweets, as opposed to several nuisance tweets is the goal.

Last week, I saw some of my peers tweet regular updates as they worked through the maps created from the court-ordered redistricting.  I wondered if my lack of tweets might be a sign of concern, as if no news was bad news.

I've seen this on election night, where giving an update on how many polling places have returned results--even though they aren't yet tabulated--provides assurance that things are going as they should.  It's human nature to assume that if things are dark, they've gone horribly wrong.

So, I tweeted a brief update that we were, essentially, "on it."  That tweet was retweeted by many, quickly, and validated that the updates were beneficial.

Yesterday, thanks to the amazing dedication of many of our staff members who gave up the last couple of weekends and a few evenings, we mailed out the last of the military and overseas ballots on Saturday, meeting the deadline of 45 days before the election.

Our employees are squeezing four months of work into four weeks, and they are halfway there.

I'm very proud of their dedication and competence, so the tweet in my mind was, "Military ballots out in time.  In your face, redistricting!"

The reason I thought I would instead type that here is because of the context of social media.  (As an aside, I'm beginning to think this Internet thing is going to take off).

I've typed here before about some social media awareness we will be taking with our election workers during training and I thought it was worth reinforcing here a personal social media policy I've tried to adopt.

I say "tried" because I see the flaws and I'm sure some have slipped through, but once we enter a particular election time, I make a point to not accept social media friend or connection requests from candidates.

I'm touched that I'm asked and I feel bad if the person who asks thinks I'm haughty by not accepting, but I will accept the moment the election is over.  I just don't want to give any appearance that I'm in cahoots with any candidate.

Now, some of those I accept after the election will have won the election (and others will think I'm cruel by accepting after their defeat) but of course I then am connected with elected officials who later might be candidates again.  I don't ferret out those and occasionally, if I'm friends with all the other candidates in a race, I will accept the friend request from the outlier, lest he or she feel I'm now in, um, anti-cahoots.

And, for reasons that probably only make sense to me, I don't see Twitter as the same as Facebook and LinkedIn.  Our office benefits, I think, from reading updates on Twitter, particularly on election day. So, this policy, if that's what it is, only applies to social media things like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ that require connection rather than following.

If all of my social media thought process bores you, then I think I've succeeded, actually.  That probably means I've over-thought this, and that's never a bad thing in election administration.

But for now, a big milestone has passed.  Military and overseas ballots are all out.  Our next item on the critical path is preparing our paper ballot order that has to be out Tuesday.  Then, we can begin moving voters to their proper districts in our voter registration system, with the goal of having a postcard ready to mail to voters by July 4.

We're 45 days from the the election, 25 days from the day advance ballots are mailed, and 33 from the day we open up for advance voting in person in four locations.

So, it's on us.  Thanks to our staff and as I tweeted, though, we're on it.