Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Complaints about the Aurora Election Commission.

Well there were some complaints about the election and the commission again.

I want to offer up my thoughts because I have a bit of a unique perspective on the situation, for the last 10 or 12 elections I have been the party representative at the vote count and have worked with the commission when issues have come up during the count, both during the newer electronic age and during the old punch card days.

That being said. I will start with some issues I have with the commission.

  • The fact we can't get the canvas (a breakdown of votes by ward and pct) electronically. We currently only get it on paper (about 300+ double sides pages). It is basically useless in that format. We have filled a formal request in the past with the commission for it and it seems that if you can print it you can produce it electronically. So far we have had no luck with this.

  • A vendor the commission uses. To be frank this person has treated the party representatives in the past like we are annoying children. When we have made specific requests that are within our rights (for example the Democrats requested copies of the paper tapes out of the machines the first election with the new gear) this party has acted like we didn't know what we wanted and were stupid for making the request. I have a BS with a computer science major, a MS in Management Information Systems and 17 years of professional experience with technology, don't treat me like I am 5.

  • The challenges of getting a hold of a carbon based life form on the phone at the commission on election day. I understand that it is busy but get some temps or pull some folks from other city departments for a week or something (yes I know this all costs money) I suspect most questions coming in can be answered by the professionals in the office, it's just a matter of getting a hold of one.

That being said, there are some things the commission has to deal with that would be the same as any election authority.

  • Election judges: They are human, they will make mistakes because of the stakes involved in elections small mistakes become big issues.

  • The number of ballots for a given election. With three parties having primaries, the park referendum and the special election the precincts had a lot of different ballots, increasing the odds of errors.

  • Unrealistic expectations: The Beacon blogged about not getting vote totals on line very fast. Let me first start with they have a bit of legitimate complaint, I made the same point on election night and managed to annoy the vendor mentioned above. However, the goal of the commission is to get the count done right, not post it as fast as possible.

What I think happened is they were having an issue closing out a machine, this halted the tabulation process while they were dealing with this.

Getting the results to the media (or on-line for that matter) should not be a primary goal of the commission.

Here are some OneMan suggestions (warning some are going to cost money)...

  • Create superjudges, who have more training and can cover several different precincts (but no more than lets say 10). Pay them more and make them the first point of contact for the election judges if an issue comes up. Perhaps the attorneys we have from time to time tally judge who think something funny is going on there is a glitch would be good for this role, perhaps even have them do it pro-bono. Perhaps create teams of one person from each party to do this. I have found generally when there was an issue during the count in the past, the Republicans and Democrats are able to agree fairly quickly on a solution.

  • Move city staff over to the commission on election day to answer phone and answer some questions and get answers to people quicker.

  • Improve the design of the ballots (the tops in particular) to make it easier to figure out who gets what ballot. (So the voter roll the precinct would have the voters information and something that would say...If the Voter is voting green they get ballot 12
    If the voter is voting Republican Normal they get ballot 149
    If the voter is voting Republican Federal Only they get ballot 333
    If the voter is voting Non-Partisan they get ballot 555)

    The voters signature card would have the ballot information as well so when you sign for the ballot you would see that you should get ballot 555 and confirm that is the ballot you were given.

    I would also suggest color coding the tops as well.

Not perfect but perhaps a start.

  • Work with AU and to get students a day off to work the election as judges, provide transportation if needed. I suspect $125 is still decent scratch for a college kid who might get some time to study during the day as well.

  • Offer to embed one or more reporters in the process. I think it would be good for the Beacon to see what is going on during election day at the commission. Perhaps even log every call (without personal information) and put it on the web in real time. then update with the resolution to the issue.
All in all the election commission does a good job with what they have to work with, not perfect but a good job. Having poll watched, tally judged and count supervised in Aurora I can say I am always surprised to some extent they don't have more problems. Is there room for improvement, yes. But I think the parties involved can work together to make it happen.

More on this to come perhaps.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI - DuPage County was using color coded ballots. A wide light green stripe on the top for Democrats, yellow for Republicans, Non-partisan were white. I never got to see what color the Green party had because no one asked for one where I was poll watching. The multiple ballot styles depended on which school district, park district and county board district one resides in, plus whether one was in city limits or unincorporated.