Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Be the Change!

I just participated as a panelist today for a webinar coordinated by the Election Assistance Commission on contingency planning and change management.

The EAC has done a good job coordinating these webinars as a casting call for ideas and modifications for the next round of Quick Start Guides and other materials that provide help to election administrators. 

These documents are especially helpful in areas where an election administrator is elected and comes into an office without any institutional knowledge.

I was involved in the webinar because of all the contingencies we worked through during the Great Snowstorm(s) of 2013.  Our office is fresh from putting disaster plans into action (although we've done our best to blot most of that very painful experience out of our brains).

But that was only half of the topic of the webinar.  Change management--implied as proactively addressing laws, procedure changes, or other items--was the other component.

It left me thinking about the election administration profession since I entered it in 2005.

When I came, there was great change in election administration.  I often argued that the industry was facing more change than any other area of government.  Fresh from the 2000 presidential election and the subsequent Help America Vote Act, there were significant technical and operational changes.

Plus, there was a new group of election activists poking around procedures, writing books, making videos, and--sometimes at least--seeming more intent on attacking individuals than protecting integrity in elections.  To a large degree, those individuals have moved on, but not before many long-term election administrators--underpaid and devoted government employees--retired.

Things have simmered.  Federal legislative activity has lessened in intensity.  While many states have enacted legislation impacting elections--particularly in the area of photo identification--the pace of change has slowed.

Or, at least the driver of the change is shifting.

It occurred to me that we've spent much of the last few years being changed, reacting to change created by others.

We face significant restrainers:  the postal service, the availability of advance voting sites, increased voter expectations about the advance voting experience, school safety issues, and soon-to-be-obsolete technology and the necessary replacement, often without funding, of voting equipment.

As election administrators, we are now in a position to be the drivers of change, to deal with these factors in a way that preserves voting options and does so economically.  This is a time that begs for great innovation, akin to the innovation that many of those previous election administrators drove before retiring in the early 2000s.

I will get more into the specifics of our process, kicking off within our team on August 8, throughout the fall.  Our plan initially was to start with a meeting on July 2, but I was called to participate in a meeting that featured members of the President's Commission on Election Administration.  That delayed our kickstart a month.

I've attached my presentation from today below, but it may need some color to connect the dots, especially on the planning side.  That will come in future posts in August and September.