Thursday, October 9, 2014

We've Got Ballots!

In the world of baby steps, we started printing ballots last night and are preparing to fulfill the 11,000 or so advance ballots by mail we have in the pipeline thus far.

Ballots are first mailed next Wednesday.

In between now and then, registered voters will receive a postcard in the mail that reminds of the upcoming election and advance voting options.

That postcard will generate about 5,000 applications for ballots by mail over the weekend.  By the time Wednesday rolls around, we likely will have around 20,000 ballots ready to mail.

We'll cut it close with envelopes on hand--intentionally, we order a couple of cycles ahead.

However, our cushion of envelopes arrived yesterday in the wrong color--the printer's mistake, but it's just one more thing that we'll be doing twice in this election.  We hope to get new, correct replacements in 12 days.

We have more than 40,000 outgoing envelopes on hand--the number of ballots by mail issued in November 2010, but we will sleep better once we have a backup sock drawer full of warm envelopes.

Envelopes are unusual in that they take an incredibly long time to print.  I'm not sure why, but they are complex.

In fact, we were the first jurisdiction in the country to design a privacy flap that covers the voter's signature in the mail, and that flap adds extra time and cost.

That was the issue in 2005--identity theft.  I guess it's still THE issue in 2014, but covering the voters' signatures in the mail was one of the first decisions I made when coming to the office.

Anyway, that all takes a backseat to the "whoo-hoo" we exclaimed when our ballots were ready for production.  Once the delay occurred with the US Senate candidate, we fell into the competitive queue with many other jurisdictions using our printer.  That printer's schedule, and probably the ballot delivery of other communities in other states, had ripple effects from this delay.

Even printing our mail-ballots here, we had to have things finalized with the printer first, and we couldn't begin creating voter cards for our 1,400 machines that we will use in this election, either.

Once we got the thumbs up, our crew had to re-proof the ballots.  Stack three large phone books on top of each other and you'll have a sense of how many pages we had to proof, fast.

If you are too young to know what a large phone book looks like, use dictionaries for this visualization.

If you are too young to know what a dictionary is, look at your laptop computer right now and imagine the cresting point at the top of the screen as the top of the stack of ballots to proof in order to visualize.

If you are too young to know what a laptop computer is, stand your iPad on its end and that will sort of give you a visualization of the magnitude.

If you are too cool to check the web with anything but a smartphone, I can't help you.  

In such a case, just know it's a lot of paper, bro.

Anyway, now the office is abuzz.  Advance election workers are brushing up on training, machines are being tested, and we're pondering "what ifs" related to the Royals' World Series run.

For instance, next week's game 5 in the championship series is scheduled during election worker training.   We'll probably have a few workers reschedule their training.

World Series week, if the Royals make it, may impact in-person advance voting.  It may lead to more requests by mail (hello, envelope printer McFly?) or it may have people waiting until election day to vote.  

Then again, if they win, election day may be Parade Day.  That may impact turnout or the time of day people vote.

Election administrators embrace worry like a rescued lost puppy.  For a moment, with our ballots, worries were gone.  That was short-lived.

It's nice, at least, to be worried about events in the future, rather than the impact of things in the past.  It was late in arriving, but we're having an election!


Sean said...

In Ohio, voters place their signature/ID envelope into a separate return envelope. Not sure how big your envelopes are or whether you could do this in KS, but it would potentially be much quicker for the vendor to print two types of off-the-shelf size envelopes than the custom signature one (may be cheaper too....we pay about 3 cents a piece for ours!).