Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are You Receiving Me?

The election administrator grapevine is literally all a'Twitter with the news of the President's Voting Commission members being announced.

(Okay, sidebar for humor, but the initial order said there would be no more than nine members and now there are 10?  Helloooo, colleagues, we count things for a living!  I feel like the amplifier just went "to 11" and no one noticed.)

Anyway, one member's name that caught my eye was Brian Britton from Walt Disney World.

I took note for a few reasons:

  • He has a great first name, spelled properly, with an I. (In fairness, in my college video game days, when I reached a high-score and was asked for my initials, I always typed "BRY").
  • Former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning once talked of learnings from crowd flow that could be obtained by watching best practices at Disneyworld.  He mentioned this during a panel at a PEW Conference in December 2008.  That night, a dinner speaker railed on the idea, offended that Disneyworld and voting were said in the same sentence.
  • I've always thought Kurt was right, validated, I believe, by today's announcement.

I posted last week that I led a panel on "The Future of Elections," at our annual Kansas clerks meeting and as I prepared for that, I was reminded of TED Talks.  No one would have confused my speech with a TED Talk, but I was going for that flavor a bit when talking about the future.

I'm an idea guy, after all, and I think coming up with ideas is the easy work.  Implementing is the hard job (and something elections people do very well).  So, I was trying to provoke thought without actually solving any problems.

I'm good at that.

My plan was to play the role of "Teddy K" in In Good Company:

"You ask some excellent questions.  Excellent, excellent questions.  I'm glad you asked them.  And, I'm leaving it to you, to all of you, to answer them."

Anyway, I got to wondering what "TED" stood for, so I checked in with Dr. McGoogle, and learned it stood for "Technology.  Entertainment.  Design."

So, I kicked off my speech with that definition and said, "If you really think about it, that's the business we're in:  Technology, entertainment, and design."

I thought that was pretty profound.  I could tell by the expressions of the audience that no one else did, though.

"Okay, maybe you could replace "Entertainment" with the word "Elections," I said.

Heads nodded.

But, fact is, we live in a world where learning is more effective if it's fun.  Experiences are more meaningful if they are fun.  Typing this blog is, well, more fun when it's fun (he typed, circling back to the 9 vs. 10 member comment).

I'm not saying elections should be wacky Southwest Airlines fun (but, then again.....).  I'm just saying you can't discuss the voter experience without considering the actual experience.

It seems that's what this Commission is all about.  Standing in line to vote is about the experience of voting, just as much as the effectiveness of postal mail or options for persons who have disabilities.

Voting doesn't have to be fun to effective.  Voting doesn't have to be entertainment.

But there's nothing wrong with taking that attitude to the job.  Approaching voting as a voter is the first step to making voting better.

One of my biggest messages, often, is related to communications:  it's meant to be received.  Too often, we think about giving communications, rather than how it is received.

"Receiving" is the starting point of entertainment.  Receiving is the starting point of engagement.

Something tells me that this Commission, with the make-up of the members, gets that.