Live from the Pac NW Elections Conference 2: the spotlight hurts

My next update from the Pac NW Elections conference concerns election “storms”–specifically, the 2004 Washington State governor’s race and the infamous 13th congressional district race in Florida.

We saw two panels that dealt with these elections.

  • Nick Handy, Washington’s State Director of Elections, John Pearson, retired Deputy Dir. of Elections, and Evelyn Arnold, Chelan County Auditor spoke on the first panel.
  • Bill Cowles, Orange County FL Supervisor of Elections (and IACREOT President elect) and Kathy Dent, Sarasota County Clerk spoke on the second panel.

These panelists had a lot to say, and I won’t summarize everything here (I’m hoping to get my hands on some of these powerpoints). Some of the high points were:

  • Ballot tracking and reconciliation is key. Every official in both states agreed that careful ballot tracking procedures are the way to avoid challenges.
  • Document, document, document. The possibility of election recounts and challenges makes it necessary for officials to keep very good records
  • And don’t document. Don’t write anything in email that you don’t want to have to explain in open court.

In the end, what struck me is how these panels turned into something like support sessions for these officials. These elections hurt. Local elections officials are not ready for the media spotlight (a lot of conversations in the conference have turned to media relations), and are definitely not ready for activist-driven scrutiny of their procdures–and accusations regarding their professionalism and non-partisanship.