Thursday, August 31, 2006

DM 101

DC does it again. The voter guide for the Sept. 12th primaries arrived. Wow, I thought. Good job, DC. It contains a sample of every ballot for every party and every ward in the city so you can familiarize yourself with it before the big day. I was really impressed until I saw on my mailing label that my polling place was, for example, #7 on the provided list of locations. But that can't be, because #7 is the Georgetown polling place, which is the furthest point west from where I live, ie, a 40 minute metro ride, a 25-minute car ride through traffic, etc. They can't possibly want me to go to Georgetown to vote, can they?! In searching through the large list of polling places I found the one closest to my house: #74. OOPS. Looks like someone didn't check the mailing label printing and the final digit made the line too long for the space allowed.

Grrrr. One of the basic tenets of direct marketing (ie, mail, email, etc to customers, constituents, clients) is to check that all the elements of the address block fit on the mailing. My first job out of grad school was at a DM agency, where I spent a lot of time randomly sampling 30 out of 1,000 labels to check that the line length didn't cut off apartment numbers, etc. It was the job of a database person to ensure that addresses were entered in "block" fashion, ie, Apt.# under the street address rather than on one long line, to avoid just that mailing catastrophe, and it was the job of lowly Me to make sure it didn't occur.

So how can the DC Board of Elections and Ethics send out a mailer to thousands and thousands of people without noticing that anyone with a double-digit polling place is being sent to a location far afield from their home? Isn't that one of THE things they'd proof for? It's kind of the entire purpose of the mailing, isn't it? Here's the ballot--and here's where you go to cast it. Duh.

I'm so irritated because this is precisely what drives down voter turnout. I'm lucky enough to have the time and technology to visit their website and look for a solution. But how many people who don't have my resources will travel to Georgetown and be turned away? Or how many people will just say, "I can't get there" and not vote? It's just another example of DC somewhat-improved-business-as-usual: all the pieces are in place, the intent is there, but the execution is sloppy and the "fix" for the sloppy execution is, as with everything else here, necessary but not sufficient.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

And with two weeks to GOTV, wouldn't it be great if someone brought that to the attention of the gov 'watch dog' reporters on the local TV stations so that they could tirelessly publicize the issue, direct questions to a website, and otherwise help? I can hear Tom Sherwood now...

Vigilante said...

What a drag, anony, not to use a Nom de Plume. "anonymous" is such drab, common, non-descript I.D. You might as well as say "Blah", because the next 'anonymous' guy/gal to come along is going to be just as non-descript. Your name is so boring and recurring and in significant, never, never, never read what you say. Because there will always be another anonymous to follow you.

Anonymous said...

see what i mean honey bean?

nondescript said...

Me too!!!