Good intentions do not compensate for bad organization

I had volunteered for TechWatch because Missouri is one of the states that had contested election results in 2000 and several of the counties are using the electronic voting system. I heard that they needed experienced tech people, especially people familiar with PHP and MySQL.


One of the emails I received was a call for someone who was an expert database person. I responded, and was sent an Excel sheet with all of Missouri’s counties and asked to find and call the registrar in each and get what voting machine they’re using. Since there is no 800 number that would mean spending about 3 days total in long distance calls on my dime. At the time, extra dollars were scarce.

I declined this ‘expert database’ assignment.

Finally a week or so ago I got my assignment. I was to be the tech support for the EIRS system at a lawyers office in Kansas City. They had me assigned all day, but I informed that I need to vote first, so they put me on afternoon and evening. Okay.

So what is this system, where is the lawyer’s office, and when do I need to be there? Well, this information is forthcoming they say.

I get another email to turn into these phone conference training sessions. Hmmm. Well, okay.

I call into one this afternoon, and get connected to the conference room. I hear a woman trying to instruct people but she’s constantly interrupted with:

“Someone has entered the conference.”

(Person’s name)

“Someone has entered the conference.”

Eventually this was joined by:

“Someone has left the conference.”

(Person’s name)

In the meantime the instructor is having us pull up a Powerpoint slide presentation that is supposed to teach the people how to use the EIRS system. Not mockups of the EIRS system (which is web-based) — a PPT slideshow of it.

I think I said this once before, but this is wrong on so many levels.

I listened and the instructions were for how to take an incident report, nothing on technology. I asked if this was for the tech support people, and was told, no this was tonight.

I call the conference tonight.

“Someone has entered the conference.”


“Someone has entered the conference.”


One of the people connected was from Florida. Another woman cut across the conversation and said she and others were heading down to Florida to monitor these elections — was there a place for them to stay? She wanted to avoid a hotel room. The man paused, and then replied that they were replacing the floor of their home, which was lost during the hurricane, and couldn’t offer a place; but he’d recommend some good places to stay.

(Something all those with good intentions might think on — how much is all of this imposing on a state that’s been badly battered by storms not that long ago, and is now faced with a mass convergence from outsiders, in order to Monitor the Polls. Poor Floridians, yet another hurricane: Hurricane “Oh-hell-we’re-really-screwed-now.”)

Anyway, back to the conference. We were directed to another web page which has a bunch of links. I look for something about technology. There is, but this is for the Poll Monitor people — those monitoring the voting machines. I’m not doing this; my assignment is to provide tech support for the people in the lawyer’s office that are getting incident reports from the field.

And I really don’t want to hear the history of voting machines.

“Someone is leaving the conference.”

In a few days time I have to go somewhere in Kansas City, at sometime during the day, and do something that may or may not be related to technology for something that may or may not have to do with the election. And this is the organization that is monitoring the use of electronic voting machines–to make sure they work right, and that no irregularities occur.

This election is in deep, serious trouble.

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