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(originally published by Booz & Company)


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

They’re all important.  But if I had to put them in a priority order, that’s the order I’d put them in.  And I think it’s important to recognize that the public may have a perception that the biggest problem is the punch card system, because that’s what they saw on television.  But in reality it was the people and the process issues that really caused that problem, as evidenced by the election that ended up occurring less than a month after the Presidential election in that same jurisdiction that caught so much attention.

I think from a practical standpoint you are going to see some minimum standards, and the question is how many of the minimum standards will be standing alone and how many of them will be linked to funding. For example, "if you do this you can get this money;"  "You don’t have to do this, but you’re not going to get the money if you don’t do it,"  versus the ones that will minimize standards by themselves, that won't be linked to money.  And most of the proposals that I’ve seen, including the current one going in the House, allocate a lot of money to get rid of punch card equipment.  There’s a perception that that’s the problem.  It’s largely perception.  But nonetheless there’s a lot of money being talked about to be allocated to that, as well as much more grant money to be used by the states for people, process and technology issues coupled with some minimum standards.

MR. GERENCSER:  Thank you.

MR. MAYER:  I think that when you talk about standards and you get them enacted so they become mandated standards, there are some real dangers in that, depending on the way you do it.

So, for instance, in the Congress if in negotiations on any bill the standards are established in such a way that you only accept those that you can all agree on, then you would get some standards that I think will probably be acceptable and can be used. If, on the other hand, in order to get the bill through, you get the standards that each side wants, then you run the risk of having some unacceptable standards that can create some problems in the process.

So I think you’ve got to be real careful when you look at the standards.  There are going to be some standards.  But I think you want to minimize those at the national level.

The other thing that I think you really need to be able to focus on when you’re looking at these is that you don’t get so involved in the standards and the process that you forget what this is all about. I’ll use an example from the recent report that was done on what happened in Florida.  They talk about some of the ballots that were thrown out that counted as double votes, where there was a mark for a candidate and then someone also wrote in the same candidate’s name. Now, it’s very clear what the intent of the voter is in a situation like that.  But because of the rule that’s established, that vote can't count.
When I talk about customer focus, you need to be able to have a process that allows you to look and determine what the intent of the customer is, and if it’s a very clear intent, then you should be able to adjust, be able to accommodate that.  What you don’t want to do is to have a standard when you’re interpreting intent.

MR. GERENCSER:  Thank you.  Great.
Yes, Norm?

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