Saturday, June 21, 2014

Business of Elections

My friend David Kimball (@kimballdc) had a tweet recently speaking to a response by the Republican National Lawyers Association to the Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA).


I think David was actually reacting to the content of the response and, forgive me, but that's not the important thing here.

An organization outside of election administrators read the report!?  And, had a point of view!

I don't think the point of view really matters at this stage.  The fact that they had one is great news.

I feel like the model Hansel in "Zoolander":
Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. 
That's how I feel about this report.  I haven't really read it, but the fact that they are making it, I respect that.

Actually, I have read through it and, true to the mission of the blog, I'm not going to address anything that could be considered political.  Many others will, I suppose, but geez-o-pete, the headline truly is that the report was created in the first place.

And, politics aside, as one might expect if something is produced by lawyers, it is well-written.  I've embedded it at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, the other obvious point about it all is that this organization really doesn't have any control over election administration.  So, as cool as it is to see a report, it provides for interesting reading but isn't very actionable.

The action, I submit, is the report itself.  Where's the report from the National Association of Counties that suggests an action plan to ensure these recommendations are funded?

How about the National League of Cities, the National Association of School Superintendents (the other NASS), or even legislative associations?

To be fair, as critical as I've been of the organizations who haven't given this report the proper register on their Give-A-Darn Meter, we election administrators haven't created a blow-by-blow plan related to the report, either.

Never missing a chance to link things back to our budget woes (I'll stop soon, I promise, because our budget will be set), creating such a plan of action is harder for election administrators with the limited resources we all have.  Few offices have a strategic planning resource, although most of us would benefit from such a resource full-time.

I still maintain that the items in the report are what we've been advocating for years, but we can't simply on the members of the PCEA to socialize the findings.  We need to be pushing an analysis locally to give our policy funders better context to the findings.

I'll be seeing some of the members of the PCEA tomorrow.  I'm excited to be traveling to participate in a conference in Cambridge, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology "Polling Processes of the Future:  What is/What Could Be" conference.

I'll be part of a panel discussing tools local administrators use in planning and operating elections.  We need more tools, though.

I'm of a growing point of view that there is a huge window for a group providing strategic planning assistance for local election administrators, and this group could develop and provide more decision-oriented tools.

This huge window has been open for years but the draft is becoming noticeable.  It's be an unserved space because, well, consultants gotta eat, too.

I learned quickly when coming to elections from Sprint that the vendor community was much smaller in elections because, simply, there isn't much money to be made in the elections space.  There aren't any large consulting practices focused on the election administration space because we couldn't pay them enough to do so.  (That's not such a bad paragraph to read, by the way, from a taxpayer perspective).

Still, there are thought leaders in the election space--much more organized and effective than when I came to this world nearly 10 years ago--but there is a vacuum of, errrrr, "thought-doers."

I have some thoughts around this that I will raise among many people smarter than me in the coming days, but I think there is money to fund such a thing if packaged properly.  I'm not thinking of election process consultants, but really a "business of elections practice" along the lines of Boston Consulting Group or McKinsey.

None of us could afford such a thing, but maybe there are kickstarter ways to fund this at an early stage for some communities and then others could leverage the tools created.

I think I'm headed to discuss this idea with just the right group, so it should be an invigorating escape, and, perhaps, a source for a fresh perspective leading into our budget discussions later in the week.