[Image via eac]
U.S. Election Assistance Commission vice-chair Matt Masterson has a new blog post this week that focuses on an a topic I’ve heard him discuss many, many times, especially over the last year or so: helping election officials understand their slow but steady transformation into information technology (IT) professionals:
Earlier this week I traveled to Columbia, South Carolina with EAC Testing and Certification Director Brian Hancock and Merle King from the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University, at the invitation of SC Election Director Marci Andino, to teach a class to election officials from across the state entitled “Introduction to Information Technology for Election Officials”. This is a class that the three of us had talked about doing for several years and were thrilled to finally try.
The passage of HAVA combined with the widespread adoption of e-government solutions has pushed election offices across the country into increasingly complex IT solutions. As the diagram below details election officials have become complex IT system managers moving large amounts of data across multiple systems.
The purpose behind the class is to help election officials cope with this new reality by beginning to arm them with the tools they need to think like and be IT managers. This starts by recognizing that election offices are IT offices and therefore require the requisite attitudes, knowledge and skills from the staff starting with the election official in charge. These include but are not limited to:
- Flexibility – ability to accommodate change with little notice – adapt and overcome
- Determination – see the task through to the end, in spite of resource and support issues
- Willingness to listen and incorporate multiple points of view into decision making process
- Confidence and self-assurance
- Deliberate in decision making – decisions require follow through and have consequences
- Sufficient knowledge of IT and supporting processes to make informed decisions
- Knowledge of fundamental IT terminology
- Knowledge of how IT supports Election Administration
- Knowledge of dependencies on IT within the scope of the elections office
- Knowledge of election technologies, both within and external to the election jurisdiction
- Able to recruit, select, and supervise staff with IT skills
- Able to evaluate IT alternatives and justify selection
- Able to evaluate risks and mitigation strategies associated with IT
- Able to integrate IT planning into overall election planning
- Able to review IT RFPs and contracts, ask meaningful questions and make informed decisions
- Able to use and/or direct the use of IT within the scope of the elections office
- Able to communicate the role of IT within the elections office to county IT staff, supervisory boards, and the media
Thank you to Marci and her team in SC and the folks that joined the class for your participation and embracing your role as IT managers. Moving forward I hope that we can take this class and these concepts and share them with election officials across the country. If you are interested in learning more or having us come to a similar state or local training event please email any of us at BeReady16@EAC.gov.
Skills like these are now crucial “must have” as opposed to previous “nice to have” for election administrators as IT occupies a larger role in the job, especially since many of the current controversies in the field – from resource allocation in Arizona, ballot problems in St. Louis County, MO or the growing concerns about voter rolls in Brooklyn, NY – are fundamentally IT problems.
Kudos to Commissioner Masterson and his colleagues inside and outside the EAC for raising the visibility of these issues and assembling a program to help administrators confront and address them. Merle King is a gold mine of knowledge and experience in this area, and Brian Hancock has been involved with election technology issues as long as anyone else I know in the field.
Obviously, I’m a sucker for any kind of educational opportunities aimed at election officials but this one has the added advantage of being timely and absolutely vital. Stay tuned …