Sunday, March 22, 2015 0 comments

Spring Forward

Yesterday may have been the first day of Spring, but we've been in spring mode for a few months and, technically, springboard mode much longer.

My buddy Mindy Moretti at just wrote an article about the number of special elections across the country, and we're a poster child for such a thing.

Here, we're charter members of the Election of the Month Club, working on our 13th election in the last 12 months.  I said the same in February, so it's really been about a 14-month string.

Rumor has it that there might be a recall effort afoot in a school district and there's one more district has to decide if there is value in having a special election by July (the others did in January).  That's  just what we know of.

The day after the April 2013 election, for instance, we received a phone call from the city of Overland Park regarding a mail-ballot election.  It was a renewal of a tax.  Special elections often are for taxes that require another vote for renewal, so some of that may come up this year.

In addition, the Kansas legislature is getting closer to making substantive changes to the election cycles.

We've already seen the city of Los Angeles move city elections to the fall of even years, starting in 2020, but Kansas had such an initiative top of mind for a few years now.  If something passes this spring in Kansas, it likely will have more of an appearance of "me too" nationally, but it was unrelated.

Regardless, the big question for us, it seems, isn't if changes will pass, but whether they will be for even or odd years.  I prefer odd, elections every August and November. 

We'll see how this plays out in the next month.

Such a change may buy us a bit of time in our plans to identify a new voting system.  Our initial plan (hope) was to make the spring 2017 elections the last with our current system.  We haven't made the progress we'd like in this area (see "13 elections in the last 12 months") so seeing the last use of the system move to the fall of 2017 artificially makes it seem like we have more time.

We're still hoping to implement in 2018.  If nothing else, we might be able to try something in parallel if the elections are in the fall.

For now, same ol' drill--election worker assignments, election worker training beginning Tuesday, scheduling headaches because the election is right after Easter weekend and, of course, the Kansas Jayhawks, should they advance to the NCAA championship game, would play that game the night before the Spring election.

My experience has been that when the Jayhawks are assumed to be advancing, they've never been a worry come election day.  This year, with no expectations and all eyes on Kentucky, and as busy as we've been, Murphy's Law may come into play.

No complaints, if so.  After all, the Royals made a run to the World Series during the fall election and cities tend to land these "all or nothing" sports scenarios.  Kansas City deserves it all.  If that adds more stress to us on election day because polling places may not be open or workers may have overslept--keeping in mind we're numb anyway--that's stress we'll be happy to take on.

Mostly, we'll just be happy for the chance at a break in the Election of the Month streak..  I remember the good ol' days when we averaged an election every other month.

Of course, there will be more time for updating. 

I'm sorry, Dear Reader, if you think I've lost my zest for typing.  It's been hard to find time.  There is no shortage of material, and I hope to get back to that soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 0 comments

Elections at the Speed of Life

Aside from the incredible busyness of elections, I've been leading a couple of graduate courses at Baker University.

I'm teaching two on-ground and one online.

Last night, a student in Topeka asked a very understandable question:

"Why can't we vote electronically?"

Electronically, in this context, meant from a computer, on the Internet.

I ran by the whole Election Assistance Commission, certification, Help America Vote Act, and all kinds of other data points from the last decade.

And then I said the obvious:

"The election industry doesn't travel at the speed of life."

That's not a bad thing.  But, for instance, we have oversized palm pilots for voting machines.

The industry does its part to ensure that the postal service has plenty of mail to deliver 6 days a week.

And yet, it's getting harder to say, with a straight face, why Internet voting isn't even a gleam in the eye.

I asked all of the students about voting online.

"Why not, we pay bills on line?" they said.

People take their voting rights seriously, but in my informal surveys over the year, they are more protective of their money than they are their city council vote.

The students quickly brought up all kinds of data breaches--Target and Home Depot, for instance (this is an MBA class, after all, and they were all business).

But in my own business days, I encountered a guy who worked with me on a particular sales account at Sprint.  He used a phrase all of the time, "the red-faced test," which, best I could tell, meant an answer he wasn't embarrassed to tell.

Pricing or delivery times for new products had to pass the red-faced test, for instance.

In the election world, I think we need to take the same red-faced-test approach with online voting, or at least online ballot marking, where the ballot is prepared and stored to be taken to a polling place.

At some point, giving answers like I gave last night, to smart MBA students, will discredit me as an instructor.  

Imagine if that happens in an online course.

At least it wouldn't be a fail of a red-faced-test because they wouldn't see me. In such a case, maybe it would be a white-knuckle test.

Either way, it's becoming more of an odd question to answer outside of the election industry.  Life moves electronically, over the Internet specifically.

Explaining why voting electronically is scary is a bit like denouncing that gravity is real or that puppies are cute.

At the very least, as we look at new voting systems, whether they be part of a device a person owns or use a device at a polling place, there seems to be growing acceptance of ballot-marking systems.  In some cases, users can beam their pre-populated ballot to a terminal that calls it up on screen for review before being cast.

This is true innovation in the election world, but a yawner in the real world.  Still, it's movement, maybe not at the speed of life but certainly movement that may give life to voting electronically.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 0 comments

Pinkie Collier

There's much to blog about, I'm behind, we have an election Tuesday, and it does seem like I've done way too many memorial posts here.

But this past week, our office lost a dear friend, Clinton "Pinkie " Collier, who worked as a field supervisor during my 10 years at the office and well before, to the point no one actually remembers when he started.

Pinkie was a former mayor of Shawnee, so as a former city council member there, I traded many anecdotes with him.

He also mentored my son, when he was in college, as a field supervisor.  Whenever I saw Pinkie, he asked how my son was.

Most touching, he was buried in an election office shirt--complete the with "VOTE" logo we have on our apparel.

It's further recognition of  a city of Shawnee connection, definitely, to our office.

The county's second election commissioner, 1958-1962, was Marvin Rainey, later Overland Park mayor and Shawnee city attorney.

There's Pinkie, and yours truly.

My predecessor, Connie Schmidt, was city clerk at neighboring city Merriam.  I lived in Merriam before Shawnee.

Tuesday's election day will bring back some memories of Pinkie.  Here's to a perfect election in his honor.

Here's the link from the city: