First some requested changes.
1) REPORT RESULTS BY CARD ID.
They would like to be able to break down results to some degree by city and district but they don't want to increase the number of plates printed as would happen by printing precinct IDs on ballots. There is a natural expectation that we could report results by card ID and that this would be a sufficient breakdown. At first I assumed that what they would really want would be breakdowns by city but in fact they would also like to report on statewide questions by school district. As long as each city and school district has races in the election, being able to report by card would be ideal. This of course would mean keeping separate counters for each card.
2) PRECINCTS REPORTING DOESN'T APPLY TO MAIL-IN ELECTIONS
Both the Precinct Summary Reports and the JResult reports showed 100% of precincts reporting after the first upload. Precincts reporting is both meaningless and misleading and we had the media reporting that all results were in after the first upload. We need to not show these for this type of election.
3) GEMS SHOULD WARN USER IF VOTE CENTER CONTAINS NO DATA
It's very easy to keep many different election databases in GEMS and very easy to pick the wrong one. In this case we got an early copy of a database in which the vote center was defined but empty and yet the database had been left Set For Election. This database was for a special district that had its own ballot and when we tried to download, we got "MSG OUT OF SYNC". This misleading condition led first to checking for communication conflicts and such before realizing that it was a lack of data.
4) SUPPORT STYLE SHEETS ON HTML REPORTS
JResults is beautiful and compared to that the HTML reports look rather plain. To an extent the reports can be run through filters to adapt to local standards but it's really not set up for this. Ideally the data would be in some format to which a style sheet could be applied to format according to local tastes. Web results are a big thing these days and there is a lot of competition here. I see that there were other counties competing on their Web sites. Unfortunately we didn't know how to set up JResults on a web site run off a non GEMS host but this would have been nice. Ideally we would support both an attractive HTML results page for non-Java browsers and JResults both from a remote Web site.
Now for some general observations, comments and questions.
1) REPORTING PERCENTAGE OF CARDS CAST
Getting the number of registered voters from LEDS (their voter registration system) by precinct portion in order to properly report percentage of cards cast was a non-trivial task. For a mail-in only election, it would have been more straightforward to have been able to just enter the number of cards issued.
2) UNIDENTIFIED CARD/PRECINCT COMBINATIONS
The LEDS system reported a number of card/precinct combinations that were not defined in GEMS. This would be 1 or 2 cards issued in each case but totaling almost 50 cards. For purposes of the cards cast, we added these to other precincts that would take those cards but these instances have not been explained.
3) THE JRESULTS USER INTERFACES NEED A LOT OF WORK
For security reasons, the GEMS system was not connected to the network so a laptop was set up to run the JResults client standalone for the media room. This lead to a number of challenges.
a) Exporting results to floppy for display via a remote laptop.
The procedure involved clicking the refresh button on the JResult server window, opening or switching to a folder window for the appropriate election data results directory, selecting all, and sending the results to floppy. Once we forgot to do a refresh before writing to the floppy. It was the media that pointed out the discrepancy between the JResults and the Web site which was displaying results from the Precinct Summary HTML report. Ideally there would be an export button on the JResult server that would write updated files directly.
b) Starting a JResult client seems like magic.
I tried to start a client on the GEMS host and discovered just what a challenge it can be. Having not done it before I tried entering a number of file: type URL's and clicking the OK and REFRESH buttons. Usually nothing would happen and occasionally I would get a small window popping up complaining about the drive letter. It wasn't until talking to Tari that I found that you have to press the Enter key on the keyboard to register the entry. Then I realized that for local files it has to start with file:\\c:\ . Considering that the default entry displayed is http://, I would expect double forward slashes to work. I would also expect something to happen when clicking the OK and REFRESH buttons and ideally for these to attempt to load the specified URL.
c) A Browse Option On The JResult Client Open File Window
This is pretty much a standard Windows interface. Ideally it would default to the correct results directory if the client had been started from within GEMS.
4) UPDATING DISTRICTS
Adams County will be re-districting at the end of 2000 and they will want to know the best procedure for updating GEMS.
5) BALLOT BOXES NEED SERVICE
They had some problems with jamming due to improper operation of the ballot deflector in the ballot box. They would like to have these checked on all ballot boxes sometime before their next use in March 2000.
Overall things went quite smooth. They received over 8000 ballots from regional collection centers after the close of polls and it took until midnight to process them all. Processing mail-in ballots takes a lot of work and anything that we could do to help would be appreciated. Already they are using bar codes on the mailing labels to identify the voter to speed validation of voted ballots and processing of undeliverable addresses. They have invested heavily in computerized voting equipment and the public has high expectations of its capability. With the mail-in voting, they had a turnout of over 40% which is much higher than for precinct based voting.