Thursday, August 21, 2014

Leaving My iHeart in San Francisco

It's been a good day at the Election Center conference in San Francisco, and it's not because of this view from the hotel room.

That's nice, though, and the weather outside is 30 degrees cooler than in Kansas City, so preparing for the Head for the Cure 5k this weekend has been a little easier here than there.

It's also not been a good day just because the Johnson County Election Office received a Best Practices Award.

That was nice, too, though. The award is the Minute Man Award, given for something that can be executed swiftly and cheaply that is repeatable or provides sustained savings.

In our case, this relates to an initiative supporting the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. We provide the League (and other third-party registering groups now) with a secure iPad that they check out and return with proof of citizenship documentation for those they register.

This has been a big deal at naturalization ceremonies and is about as big of a "feel good" story as there can be. More than 600 new citizens have been registered using this iRegister application.

Anything that begins with a lower case "i" is so clever these days, and we have an election worker who came up with "iRegister."

I suggested she trademark it quickly. I think she thought I was kidding, so at least there is a date stamp here with the blog and the award that shows when she first used it. So, intellectual property trolls beware, or she might iSue you.

Our office has been awarded four Best Practice awards by the Election Center in my tenure, equaled only, I believe, by the Los Angeles County Election Office. This one, related to registration, is most special to me because it's truly aligned with an election administration function. Our other awards were for outreach of one type or another--text messaging, a Jo-Co-Po-Lo campaign to direct voters to the proper voting location, and, in life-imitating-art fashion, this very blog.

Even coming from a long Sprint career, I couldn't have anticipated back then how much phones and mobile devices would play a role in my job at the Election Office.

Today, though, I remembered something an advisor told me when we met as I pondered closing that 20-year chapter of my life and exploring something new.

"You'll find, Brian," he said, "that things you've done and learned at Sprint will serve you well."

"He" was Matt Anthony, CEO at the time of VML and now the head of its parent advertising conglomerate. Matt and I knew each other from Sprint, where he worked before going VML, which became our agency of record for the wholesale division. We actually first met before that, when he worked for the Kansas City Comets and I was a pup reporter covering the soccer team for UPI.

Matt also now leads the annual Head for the Cure 5k event (this weekend in Kansas City but not there are several in other communities). He started this event after losing his brother to brain cancer.

The race is now personal for me as well because my daughter had a brain tumor removed and was temporarily unable to move her legs just 6 months before running in the Head for the Cure three years ago. Plus, one of our "A" list election office temporaries also had a brain tumor and has a large team of runners at the event. This will be the fifth race for me (counting one in Lawrence) since my daughter's surgery.

As I ran outside at lunch time along the scenery you've now, um, seen, I was thinking of Saturday's race and drifted off towhat Matt said years ago. I then realized I had one of those "serve you well" moments this morning.

The actual series of events will be in another post, soon (and maybe two or three because of the complexities, all coming within a week), but at a high-level I talked today with a ballot scanning and tabulation company we will be evaluating for several school mail-ballot elections we will have in January.

It was sort of a speed-dating type of meeting. We're going to lay out specs for a scanner and procure one within a month. The company we choose should have some familiarity advantage with us, I would think, as we evaluate next-generation voting systems.

That's the big story in the voting system equipment world--the pending need for new equipment, and the question many of us face is, "what will that system be?"

As I talked today (maybe I should have listened more, but I did listen to myself), I realized that jurisdictions may not replace a system with another system.

What if we had more than one system?

Remember, my time with Matt was when I was over marketing for Sprint Wholesale, a division that sold to other brands. I'm a brand expert, actually, more so than an election expert even.

What if we had, essentially, different brands for different elections? Brands can be vendors or sizes of systems in this case, or just call them models. What if we had small, big, and bigger systems to choose from, based on the election?

We wouldn't have one vendor for everything. I asked if that's ever been done--a jurisdiction having more than election system, for different uses based on the election.

The vendor I was with at that moment suggested that's how things were evolving because of the types of hardware that was being used, less proprietary, more over the counter. I know of all that, of course, but I never saw until today how integrated the election administration industry is about to become.

Mind blown.

THAT'S what made it a good day. There's a new paradigm coming in election administration.

iSaw it and iRegistered it.