Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 comments

MEOC Ahead!

It's Tuesday at the election office and while we don't have an election today, we're frantically moving around at election speed.

Our little regional election administrator conference begins tomorrow and has blossomed beyond the 90 attendees we thought would be a stretch to nearly 200. 

Putting the conference on with a relative shoestring has redefined shoestring.

To paraphrase a movie that I'm way too frantic to remember--"It's a darn good thing we have a presidential election next year."

Which, on one hand, is why we're having the conference.

We planned to upgrade our election worker training equipment for 2016--new computer, new monitors, new sound system, and maybe a stage for our perfect polling place skit.

Buying some of those items now and trekking them to the hotel saves us some rental fees, although trekking will be less fun than even typing the word trekking, which already feels awkward because of the double kk's (really, how many words have consecutive K's?  Is trekking the only one, and is trekking really even a word?). 

Still, two k's are better than KO, although the conference is coming close to knocking us out.

You'd think we'd have learned that elections are stressful and this would bring about similar crazy.  Yet, we always seem surprised that the election period makes us cranky from stress, too.

I've said before that having an election is like having a baby.

The long nights and pains of having a newborn are forgotten fairly quickly, leaving the parents with all the great memories of their child--so much so that having another baby seems like a great idea until the outcome is more sleepless nights.

Where's the instruction manual
for the stage...?
So it is with elections, and this conference.

The outcome of the conference will be rewarding.  The conference features an A list of election administrator speakers, never assembled on the same stage before!

(No one has ever been assembled on our stage before, because, as a matter of fact, we are still assembling the stage).

I coordinated many trade shows and events in my Sprint days, so we're at the part where I feel like things are coming together just enough to introduce new things, apparently to simply terrorize my staff as they were finally thinking about exhaling. 

"What if we streamed the event?"

"We have transition music, right?"

"Can we have lasers?"

Don't call them Swag
Bags (or satchels for
Skittles)--these are
Vote Totes
Ok, I didn't ask about lasers.  (At this event, anyway.  We also don't have the money to hire Michael Buffer, the guy to customize a "Let's Get Ready to Rummmmmmmmblllllle!" intro.  I did that in the past.  He charged $3,000 for that, 20 years ago).

We'll update here and elsewhere (www.meoc2015.org).  We'll use the twitter hashtag MEOC2015. 

The conference starts Wednesday at noon, central time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015 3 comments

Election Day, Zero Ballots

(revised, new data at the bottom, 4:30 p.m. on 9/16/2015)

Gardner's mail-ballot election closed yesterday at noon with remarkable efficiency.

That efficiency isn't from us, but rather the United States Postal Service.

Okay, as regular readers can guess by now, that previous sentence was in sarcasm font.

You see, Monday's mail brought us 169 ballots.

Today's mail brought us 79, too late to be counted.

Yesterday's mail brought us 0.

By the way, 17 people dropped off their ballots yesterday.  But somehow, with remarkable success, every voter who wanted their ballot here by mail did so--included in Monday's mail.

If you are scoring at home, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, that's 169-0-79.


We called the post office yesterday morning at 11.  On the previous two Tuesdays, we received only 1 ballot each time (about 2,600 voted and 10,000 ballots were issued).

Nope, no ballots.


We had someone else call.



As election administrators, what more can we do?  Demand a right to storm the post office and search for yellow envelopes?

For sake of argument, what if nothing was there and instead they were held too long at the Kansas City post office and were in a truck headed to Olathe?

We call the post office, but should we consider anything in the pipeline at the post office?  Even if it's a postal facility in a different state?

At the very least, with postal service levels changing, jurisdictions will need to consider the use of mail-ballot elections.  Or, maybe Kansas laws should be changed to base returns based on postmarks--that would require significant change, though, because Kansas mail-ballot elections pay the postage for the voter--business reply mail.

As a starting point, I can raise the problem.

You, dear reader, in a life-imitating-life moment (there is no art to a voter not able to cast a ballot, so no art-imitating-life moment here), you are part of said awareness effort.

That's all--fairly short for a blog post, but a powerful issue to begin considering.

Unless, of course, it seems perfectly reasonable for a three-day mail pattern to be 169, 0, 79.  Maybe ending Tuesday delivery was suggested by the postal service because there isn't any actual mail on Tuesday. 

Somehow, I doubt it.

79 others in Gardner may wonder, too.

One of our snappy staffers pulled the numbers from our August recall election--it was at the polls, so the numbers weren't as compelling, but the pattern remains:


Monday 3 August – 22 ballots
Tuesday 4 August – 4 ballots
Wednesday 5 August – 41 ballots

Monday 10 August – 75 ballots
Tuesday 11 August – 0 ballots
Wednesday 12 August – 43 ballots

Monday 17 August – 51 ballots
Tuesday 18 August – 1 ballot (election day)
Wednesday 19 August –27 ballots (too late)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 0 comments

Warm Fuzzies and Furry Thoughts

We're in election mode again, with a mail-ballot for the city of Gardner.

It's the ninth election of 2015, the most since we had nine in 2005.  If this were an ACT test question, expect nine elections in 2025....

We also got word that we likely will have a school district mail-ballot election in early 2016, so the beat goes on.

It's hard to complain, really.  After all, we exist to administer elections.

Lamenting elections would be like Tom Brady belly-aching about his next game at quarterback, or Al Roker complaining about doing a weather forecast.

In fact, I think it's worth giving it up to election administrators who have processed hundreds of elections and millions of ballots.  We strive to be the voter concierge, and being a concierge implies answering the same question over and over as though we've heard the question for the first time.

(Side note, on election day, we want our workers to be prepared for any type of voter to be their first voter--a perfect voter, an audio ballot, a provisional voter, lost voter, etc.  This preparation paid great dividends in our last election.  More on that in a future post).

This past week, our office had an outing at a minor league baseball at a stadium near the Kansas Speedway.  Hopping on the highway after the game, I saw the Comfort Inn and Suites Kansas Speedway, and I thought about how it must get very old answering the phone, "Thank you for calling the Comfort Inn and Suites Kansas Speedway...."

(Of course, it may be answered, "Thank you for calling.  Your call if very important to us...")

In any event, further praise to those who approach things with the same gusto over and over.

Another night, recently, I happily saw The Psychedelic Furs in concert at the Crossroads.  I've seen the Furs six times, dating back 30 years.  I've seen them play "Pretty in Pink," for instance, in each of those shows.

Yet, the lead singer, Richard Butler, was the same animated self he was at that first concert--the same gestures at the same points in the song, in fact.

It's not as though it was his sixth time in Kansas City (eighth--I missed two), but likely his six thousandth time he's sang that song.

Richard Butler sings Pretty in Pink in KC
So where is this going?  Well, first, I really wanted to post a photo I took at the concert :-)

But, second, I've administered more than 60 elections in 10 1/2 years.  But there are people at our office who passed the 100 mark.  There are people in this country who have administered hundreds of elections.

September is National Voter Registration month.  For those of us in the industry, it's worth pausing this month to reflect on the administrators, too--our peers and colleagues, and congratulate them on bringing energy to their jobs and to voters.

Voters have much more energy for the outcomes of elections--parks, roads, taxes, libraries--than for the election process.  Without elections, there would be no government, at least a government we'd all want to have.

You, dear reader, are likely one of these cogs of the election infrastructure.  Pat yourself on the back and whet your whistle with another cup of coffee at the rinky-dink election office break room.

One of my favorite things at LA County's Election
Warehouse--the lunch room is closed at, well,
lunch time.
Then, get back to work!  You have an election to administer!

Saturday, September 5, 2015 0 comments

MEOC Agenda

This is out there elsewhere, and by placing here for those who come here regularly, I'm hoping to provide a quick update and maybe not allow you to see I haven't posted in a while.

(Oh, blew my cover on that.  I will have a post for reals this weekend).

The agenda is tentative in that we are still finalizing speakers and may be shifting topics around to accommodate speakers and have one topic best flow to another.

This is setting to be a rockin' conference.  Hotels are getting full--yes, hotels; the primary hotel is close to full if not already full.   The website www.meoc2015.org has nearby hotels and registration info.  If you've been waiting to register, now is the time to do it, this weekend.  You have a whole extra day at home! 

I'm very proud of our employees who are pulling this together, in the midst of elections no less.