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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Panel Discussion: “Election Reform: A Systematic Business Solution”

MR. GERENCSER:  Thank you, Ron.

SHARON PRIEST (D), Secretary of State, Arkansas and President Emeritus, NASS:  I’m going to say that I’m very pleased that it appears that everybody on the panel has read and agrees with the Secretaries’ preliminary February resolution that it is a process of people, process and technology.  And I think that we are in a very precarious situation right now, because I think people are, the American people, when they go to vote in ’02 they are going to expect some changes.  And the massive change that they’re expecting is not going to be there.  And I think that that is going to put all of election officials at risk, because we’re raising a level of expectation that can't be met. It can't be met because at this point while state and local governments are working very hard to make some of the process changes, the technology changes require a great deal of money and most of that money is going to have to come from the federal government.  It’s the only way that locally we’re going to be able to deal with it.

I think the other challenge that we’re going to be facing is consistency.  I know that’s one of the big challenges that I’m dealing with now in Arkansas as we’re trying to look at the process of elections and ensuring that county by county, even though it’s not the same equipment, that the law is interpreted the same way, that poll workers are trained the same way.  I think that will help improve the process.  It’s not going to change everything, but at this point I’m not sure it’s possible to have the massive changes that the American people are probably expecting for ’02.

MR. GERENCSER:  Thank you, Sharon.
Jack, if we can get an industry perspective.

JACK MAYER, Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton:  When we look at the idea of election reform, we think that a lot of the principles that are applied in business can be enacted with the goal toward increased performance in the system.

What do I mean by that?  Well, the first thing I think is to recognize that elections are really about the people.  And the people who are involved in the organization of people need to understand that they need to be customer focused.  The American people are the customers.  It’s not the political parties.  It’s not the people in office.  It’s not the people who are the elected officials in the state running the elections.  The elections are about the people, so you need to make sure that this is approached from a customer focus perspective.

How would you do that?  Well, we said not one size fits all.  We agree with that.  If you look at customers, you’re not going to say that the people in Seattle are the same as the people in West Virginia.  They’re not.  And you’re going to be able to ensure that the process that you have, although it was aimed at the same goal, is oriented towards your customer.

It should be driven by the customer segments.  This really allows for the idea that it be decentralized, that it be down at the state, at the country, at the township level and not in a centralized location.

Second is that you would go ahead and look toward making the process a performance focused process, and employing that philosophy.  That would argue that you don’t immediately assume that it’s a technology solution, which many have done and which is a real danger in terms of the way people want to throw money at things.  It is much more, as everyone has stated up here, a people process and technology solution.

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