Fri 31 Oct 2008
Ellie, Elijah and I go to the polls Election Day (it deserves to be both capitalized and a holiday) – it is a family tradition. Even though I’ve voted in every major and almost all primary elections since 1980, I still get excited on Election Day (doubly so when I was running).
While I’ve worked out most of the top of the ticket characters I’m voting for, luckily I still have time to figure out some of the judgeships.
Early voting in Orange County has been heavy but not a problem. As reported in today’s News and Observer:
In Orange County, the average wait has been 15 minutes or less, said director Tracy Reams of the Board of Elections. By the end of Wednesday, 38,904 people — more than 40 percent of registered voters — already had voted in Orange.
Since Orange County has been managing the voter turnout, the Board of Elections decided this morning to close the polls as per the original schedule (9am to 1pm Saturday).
I’ve closely followed the management of local elections for nearly 20 years and from what I can tell, this is one of the best run elections Orange County has experienced.
One reason: Tracy Reams.
Oct. 10th I called the BOE to find out how preparations were progressing. I had heard that in the closing days of regular voter registration the staff was processing hundreds of applications daily. Tracy, who was hired last December, spent nearly an hour sketching out her plan to make what was anticipated as the biggest election in decades go smoothly.
After a few minutes, I well understood why the BOE was so thrilled to hire her:
Billie Cox, Chair of the Orange County Board of Elections, said that she and members of the board, Hank Elkins and John Felton, were very pleased that Ms. Reams had accepted this position.
“Tracy has all the skills we were seeking,” Cox said. “In addition to her understanding of election laws, technology and organizational skills, she is well known and highly regarded in Nash County for her ability to work with staff, precinct officials, political parties, candidates, and the general public,” Cox added.
In 2006, I reviewed the county’s choice of voting equipment. I pushed for the more tamper-proof, verifiable vote, optical scan option. One technical limitation these machines has involves how many ballots, realistically, the hopper can manage. ES&S, the manufacturer, claims 2000. Folks on the Internet claim 1500.
Two years later and two minutes into our conversation, Tracy described her ballot management process.
“Our machines won’t hold 2,000 ballots,” she said and went on to describe how she had instructed poll-workers to empty the bins at 1,200 to prevent jamming. Then she outlined her procedure for guaranteeing the integrity of those ballots – witnesses, safety tape, ballot box opened publicly. Wow!
She had ordered %120 of the required ballots to handle any major swell of last minute registrants, ordered 13 phone lines up from 4 at the BOE office, doubled staff to 65 with another trained 10 employees on standby and planned to position the extra dozen polling machines in the field quickly accessible to replace any broken equipment. Further, she had ordered enough laptops to deploy one, each with the current registration roll, at each of the 44 Orange County voting precincts.
That is the kind of preparation our voters deserve.
I’ve gotten to know our BOE staff fairly well over the last 15 years and they all are a diligent crew.
Tracy is the icing on the cake.