Sunday, April 26, 2015

Around the County in (1)80 Days

With the April election behind us, it's time to move, guns blazing, into our next election.

Wait a minute....we don't have a next election.

Well, technically, we always have a next election.

It's one of the axioms of life.

There's always room for jello.

You're never really finished with laundry.

There will always be another election.

But in our case, that next scheduled election is April 2016.

We may have one before then.  There is an active recall effort underway in a school district, and there is some talk that Shawnee may fill an open city council seat with an election.

Still, right now, we aren't working on an active election.  That's the first time I've been able to say, or type, that in my 10 years and nearly four months on the job.  Others in the office who have been here longer are disheartened when they hear this, because for them, it's been even longer.

Unless the Shawnee election comes to pass as real this week--we're finalizing all work on April's election--I will declare the streak over and, as far as I can tell, it's about a 20-year streak.

In odd years, there isn't an election more than 5 months apart since 1997, and even then, we don't know now when staffers were aware that election was forthcoming.

So now, when it would appear to be the slowest time we've had in years, it's time to get extremely busy.  We have much work to do in the next six months, roughly 180 days.

Six months from today's date, November 26, will be Thanksgiving Day.  That triggers the holidays where December is often a lost month, time to move the ball through a month that has many personal events.  May is much the same way, with graduations and end of school-year functions.

But we're in crunch mode.  We've undergone some staff retirements, a death of a key staff member, and some much needed staffing changes to bring in the right mindset as we approach 2016.  We have much more to do, with two new vacancies pending, and hope to be fully staffed by this summer.

As part of that, we're focused on a very basic problem.  Where will people vote in 2016?

We have shrunk down to 175 polling places, from 286 in 2004.  If we were on the trajectory of polling place growth under my predecessor (tied with population growth), we'd be at around 350 polling places right now.

We need about 100 more for the expected turnout.  We won't get them, so advance voting will even be more important than ever.

Oh, and we've lost two of our four advance voting sites.

Job one is to review our polling places, a refreshed look at disability accessibility, parking, voting accommodations, and other factors.

We'll be going around the county in 180 days evaluating voting locations.  Jules Verne figured out how to go around the world in 80 days, but we're working--it'll take longer.

In the meantime, we'll be picking up our efforts to recruit election workers, beginning training as soon as possible, well before Thanksgiving perhaps, to be ready for 2016.

2016 is breathing down our neck.  We have six months before the self-induced winds of change shift to the turbulence from the outside world.

How we respond to that turbulence will come down to how well we focus now.