I mentioned in a previous post that the world of elections is changing. Technology is both advancing and being rejected simultaneously. Younger voters are not being served through channels they use regularly (social networking and mobile technology). Service providers are popping up everywhere. New legislation is being passed covering everything from easier access to voting for deployed military personnel to requiring voter ID at the polls. Some of this we in the industry can control, others things we are left to react.
On the subject of technology…
While many voters have no problem with voting on touchscreen voting systems (also referred to as DREs), many advocacy groups are pushing for a return to paper, or at least the use of voter verified paper trails. Some jurisdictions are switching back to paper as a result of maintenance costs for electronic voting equipment.
However at the same time, use of electronic poll books is increasing. The military can now access their ballots via a secure Internet portal. Companies enabling web based voting are growing in number.
Many states are passing a variety of laws affecting elections. All of us as industry members, and as citizens, can, of course, lobby our elected representatives for them to vote this way or that. For them to introduce this or that bill. But ultimately we remain largely reactionary. As a result we must focus on helping our customers adapt as quickly as possible.
This could be, from and election official’s standpoint, the most important. The companies that have been the major players in election services (namely the manufacturers) have essentially had monopolies on the market. However, through acquisitions, divestitures, layoffs, and other events, many jurisdictions now have a choice as to who they use for various election services.
What does this mean going forward? Ultimately it means certain costs for running an election SHOULD fall. In theory jurisdictions should be able to use competition to negotiate lower prices for services they have been paying a premium for up till now. For those of us providing services it means adapting. Price matters now. Client satisfaction matters. Service quality and responsiveness matter. Those who become lighter, faster, more agile will not only survive, but thrive. Those who continue to operate with the ‘ business as usual’ mentality will face uncertainty. Undoubtedly some will still succeed despite themselves, others may simply disappear. Only time will tell.
So what is an election official to do? Simple. The same thing you have always done. Serve your voters. Pick them best person for the job. Only now, you have more than one choice. Unhappy with your current provider? Find a new one. Like who you have? Great, you are one step ahead of your peers. And should you ever need…you’ll always had a plan B…and C…..and even D.