Election Diary, Day One

Although we’ve been busy moving around piles of data and piles of paper for a while, today marks our first burst serious provincial general election activity.

The big data management challenge at the front end of the electoral process is that data gathered door to door by 291 teams of “confirmation officers” during the first week of the election period has to be used to update the Registry of Electors that’s used to generate the Preliminary List of Electors later this week.

What this means in practice is that information about almost 100,000 electors has to be confirmed, added or deleted in the space of 48 hours. This is all made possible by data entry team of about 100 who start work on Tuesday night once the confirmation period is over.

The data gets entered into a web-based application that we first created for the 2003 election and that’s evolved in the interim as it’s been used for municipal elections and provincial by-elections.

Today is “data entry training day.” Starting at 11:30 a.m. we’ll run through four 30 minute training sessions with different groups of the data entry team, reviewing the basics and covering any changes since the last big “data entry event.” The sessions are held in the same windowless basement audio-visual theatre that’s otherwise used for press conferences and the like; it’s a place with little air and no light, and so keeping sharp — especially after three sessions — is always a challenge. When we did this back in 2003 I recall looking up from my notes after the third session and completely forgetting how far along I was, and convinced I was repeating myself (turns out that I wasn’t).

Tomorrow night the Big Fun begins: the 291 binders of confirmation forms will all get delivered to our “data entry HQ,” and then they’ll be distributed out to the data entry team and inputting will continue well into the night. We’ll repeat on Wednesday night, and the Preliminary List of Electors will get generated Thursday morning.

I covered some of the technical details of the data entry application in my talk in 2003 at Zap Your PRAM if you want to know more about the particulars.