Saturday, May 17, 2014

Word Search

Over Labor Day weekend in 1989, I went to a Chicago White Sox game at the original Comiskey Park.

In the first inning, first baseman Steve Lyons took the field and, during warm-ups, began creating a tic-tac-toe design in the dirt behind first base. 

I can't remember who the Orioles' first baseman was, or what the final outcome was, but I remember each of them came out and made their selection each half-inning before the grounds crew swept away the game midway through the actual baseball game.

In that spirit, those of us in the tabulation room years ago began a word search game on the giant whiteboard in that room.

I'm not sure why the whiteboard is there and it seemed a waste not to use it.

The tabulation room, by the way, is very primitive, right down to the fact that one wall is comprised of painted concrete blocks.  The server is not connected to the Internet, an Intranet, or in any way talking with anything except directly wired scanners and voting machines used to upload results off cards brought back from the polling places.

Of the three regular attendees in the room, one has the password to the server and one has the specific password to each individual election.  I have neither passwords.

So, it takes two persons to enter the tabulation system, and it is required that a minimum of two people are in the room at any time.  Attendance is logged and a camera monitors the room.

For each election, we have a Public Test, where we run results against a predetermined pretend outcome do demonstrate that all components are tabulating properly.  We have a rehearsal for the Public Test and, actually, the persons in the tabulation room also do a rehearsal of the rehearsal. 

They also conduct a post-test after each election.

Back to the whiteboard--the three of us rotate selecting a word we can make from the word "touchscreen."  It seemed like an appropriate election word and just a fun, goofy thing to do.  The tabulation room can be a very stressful place because we're generally in there when people are anxiously awaiting results--the whiteboard represents some kryptonite to stress.

A word is selected after the rehearsal, after the Public Test, and after election results are tabulated.  My turn to select is during the Public Test.

All of us, I'm sure, have words we've identified for future moves.  We're curious when we'll run out of words, but we're a few years into this and likely won't exhaust our choices before the end of 2016, at least.

After our doubleheader, two elections in one day, on Tuesday, we stared at the board and realized that we've been doing this for quite a while.  We decided to select only one word for this election cycle, even though we conducted two elections.

Hence, the asterisk.  When we do pick a new word, we'll want to see if it can outlast this one.  This word will represent one more election than is represented by the number of sub-words, divided by three.

So, there you have it--an example of what election administrators do for fun, with all apologies for not being that fun.

(Hey, no one ever promised "behind the scenes" was Bravo Channel material).