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A Lot of Ballot Work Going On…

April 30, 2005 at 3:02 PM

I'm real late with posting this...I've just been busy lately, that's all.

Last week:

  • Monday: I finished up stapling the extra page to all of the ballots and put them back in their clasp envelopes. After that, I put mailing labels on blue postcards, copied and tri-folded letters (all of this was for voting supply pick-up), and placed them in the envelopes I typed up last week. I also found out from someone that I might be taking over work for Armstrong County's website on the day of the primary election, to keep it updated throughout the day =)
  • Tuesday: I had to take write-in instruction cards and voter instruction cards, and put a certain number of each in separate clasp envelopes for each district; I managed to get 51 districts done for the write-ins.
  • Wednesday: I continued putting away write-in cards and, when those were finished, I started working on the voter instruction cards. My boss called me out in the middle of this job to work on counting out punch-card ballots for independents (as the last-minute question is not tied to any particular party, everyone can vote on it) and placing them on top of the Republican/Democratic piles for each district.
  • Thursday: I finished counting out the ballots, and then started working on putting all three sets of ballots, write-in envelopes, and a "seal" (a red plastic thing with a wire used to lock the two pieces together, it can only be opened by breaking that wire; the one inside the box is unlocked, and used for sending it back) inside transfer cases (gray metal boxes), closing them, and using another seal to lock the box. I also had to keep track of the seal numbers used for each box (incoming, for the ones inside the boxes, and outgoing, for the ones used to lock the boxes).
  • Friday: I finished filling the transfer cases, and had just enough time to get one more voter instruction card set put away.

This week:

  • Monday: I continued sorting voter instruction cards, but unfortunately didn't get finished with that today, as I also had to sort laminated ballot pages (the ones used in the voting booths) by their page number, party ("R" for Republican, "D" for Democrat), and district number (01-74).
  • Tuesday: I finally managed to finish getting the voter instruction cards put away. I also sorted a few more laminated ballot pages as well - there's not that many left, so I should be almost done with these.
  • Wednesday: I worked on getting provisional ballot sets ready - these included green big clasp envelopes (for materials), smaller versions of that envelope without the clasp (for the ballots - 10 per set), a green paper (reconciliation form), normal green envelopes (also for the ballot - 10 per set), white and green paper receipts with a barcode on a label and an identification number (10 per set), and blue and red ballots (five of each per set, and all must be stamped with a green "Provisional Ballot" stamp). I also got the rest of the ballot pages sorted, but after double-checking them, three districts appear to be missing entirely (I marked their locations with a piece of paper and the missing district's number) - it turns out some may have been ruined during lamination, and will have to be redone. There's not too many missing though, so it won't be a problem to put those pages back in after copying and laminating them again.
  • Thursday: I continued readying the provisional ballot sets - everything has been counted out and sorted, and I stamped as many ballots as I could for the day (about three-quarters of the entire pile).
  • Friday: I finished getting the provisional ballot sets ready. After that job was done, I was asked to get out the envelopes for the specimen ballots I copied earlier and double-check one ballot in each set to make sure the correct pages were included for each district, followed by putting the ballot back in and sealing that district's envelope (they were intentionally left unsealed the first time). After that was done, it was close to the end of the day, so I was given one of the sample ballot-punching devices and started working on punching sample ballots for testing the machines used to count candidates' votes (all three types, Republican, Democrat, and Independent - one of each with everything ending in "1" punched out, two of each with everything ending in "2" punched out, and so on, up to and including ten for everything ending in "0"). It was clogged somewhat, so I tried cleaning out the device used for holding the ballots...And chads were pouring out from the bottom of it in a continuous stream for at least five minutes straight, after which I just gave up on trying to clean it out, and went back to punching the cards. I only got a few punched, but it shouldn't take too long to finish, and I should be able to get that done on Monday.

It’s My 22nd Birthday!

April 27, 2005 at 10:00 PM

I'm 22 now ^_^

Today, I went to work as usual...And around 2:00 PM, I was called out to the main office, and was wished a Happy Birthday by everyone there. They got me a card, as well as an ice cream cake, which everyone there (myself included) enjoyed.

After work, my parents and I went to Red Lobster for supper, and I got the Shrimp Trio (two of fried shrimp, and one of coconut shrimp). After we were done eating, they mentioned it was my birthday to our waiter, who then brought out a few of the other waiters to bring out a small chocolate cake with a single candle on it and sing their own little "Happy Birthday" tune (fast-paced, to the tune of "I Don't Know What I've Been Told" - I'm not sure what that song's actually called, though). We each had a few pieces of cake before packing up what was left and heading home.

When we got home (and after changing clothes), I opened my cards and birthday presents. I couldn't think of anything to get this year, and would rather save up for something good later on - My presents were:

  • Clothes - Seven shirts (one which needs to be taken back as it's too big), a tie, and three belts,
  • Money,
  • A shower caddy - Soap dispenser, brush holder, etc. I tried it out, and it works much better than the previous shower rack we had, and
  • A little atomic alarm clock - It works just like the larger one in my room downstairs, but I can sit this one in my bedroom. It'll be much easier to wake up to than my current clock, which, when the alarm goes off, is very noisy.

That's about it for what happened on my birthday - It was a pretty good day, though =)

I Hate Last-Minute Things…As Well as a Certain Database-Entry Program.

April 17, 2005 at 7:38 PM

Here's what I did at work this week:

  • I finished up Friday's job of copying specimen ballots (or so I thought), which took me all of Monday and some of Tuesday to finish.
  • I had to insert receipts with the envelopes I rubber-banded earlier for a portion of Tuesday.
  • From Tuesday to Wednesday, I had to prepare boxes containing voter's supplies (pencils, signs, ballot puncher, etc.). For each box, I had to open it, temporarily remove three books (two of which were identical, though that's intentional) from the middle of it to free up some room, add the signs and accessories (mentioned above), put the books back in (they take up less room when placed on top of the rest of the stuff), close the box, tape it shut on two sides, and label it with a number and the district it goes with.On Wednesday, I had to stop preparing the boxes for awhile to copy, laminate, and cut out signs for one particular sign that I didn't have enough copies of. I took a few minutes after the end of the work day to finish up all of the boxes, so I wouldn't have to do this tomorrow.
  • On Thursday, I took some time to clean up the box containing ballot-punching tools - I separated the ball-type and pen-type ones, threw away the broken ones, put away any chains not connected to the punching tools, and threw away any trash I found in the box that was mixed in with the tools. After that, I typed up election judges' names on envelopes...And after that, I found out that there was a last-minute page addition to the ballots I copied, so I'd have to get out the mask puncher again and add one more column of holes for this page. Fortunately, it was identical for all districts on both ballots (and only two holes needed punched), so I only had to set the holes to punch just once this time...And I got it done rather quickly =) After that, I started making copies of the eighth (last-minute addition) page for ballots, and used a heavy-duty paper slicer to split them apart (two per page).
  • I spent the rest of Thursday, and all of Friday, stapling that page to all of the ballots I copied...And I couldn't get it finished, so I won't be done with this task until Monday.

And as for what I did during the weekend:

  • On Friday, after work, Mom wanted me to come see the Youth Group at the church. I didn't really want to go, but she wanted me to, so I did (just this once - no offense to them, but I don't think I want to go there again the next time they do something like this). When we got there, no one was around to work with the sound system, so I got stuck with having to run it - All I really had to do in this case was put in CDs, make sure they're set to the right track number (the player I was using let me select the track before putting the CD in), and adjust the volume on the microphones they were using while they sang (and messed around between songs). They said I did OK, and could take over if no one else is around...Which might mean I'm going to get stuck with another job at the church that I don't want to do, but got drafted for anyway. I'm also tired of having to take up the Sunday School offering plate nearly every Sunday (which, if I recall correctly, I've been doing since I was at the old Limestone church, when there wasn't anyone else old enough at the time to do this), especially now that there are some kids in the church that are old enough to take over for me now. I enjoy helping people in general, but I honestly wonder why I continue to help some people at times when I know things like this will happen...After that, the group watched a movie, called "Napoleon Dynamite". I didn't really enjoy it, especially considering that most of the group was talking loudly during most of the movie, and the TV, at its highest volume, wasn't really that loud. I lost interest in the movie, and left before it was finished, so I could get around to installing a DVD slideshow program on the Pastor's computer (he asked me to do so earlier in the week, when I had some free time; the program was his, and he had lent it to me awhile back to do slideshows for the new church's dedication, and I'll be using it again soon to do a slideshow for Memorial Day). I couldn't find the disk (I did bring it with me, but forgot where Mom put it), and so I messed around on the computer for awhile. I managed to find it laying on the table shortly before having to leave (I didn't see it there when I came in, so Mom probably told one of the kids to find it and put it there), and installed it. We got home late, and both went to bed, as we were both too tired to do anything else for the day.
  • On Saturday, I went to Larry's to do data entry for the program he's using for fingerprint authentication (so people wouldn't have to keep signing in on a paper when they came in). This was a long day, as not only was it cold in the building (I brought my coat for when I was outside, but didn't think I'd need it in the gym), but the design of the program he was using for this (made by ASF International) made it difficult to the get work done, and didn't get as much done as I wanted to. Here's what I noticed about the program:
    • For Internet Explorer Only: Data can be entered online (via a secure connection), so I fired up Firefox (which I installed on his computer awhile back) to take care of entering in the data...And promptly got a database error when trying to log in (the User Agent Switcher extension had no effect here). I tried it in Internet Explorer, and it worked just fine. I originally thought it may have been a glitch, but given what I've noticed about the site (uses ASP, the server runs MS IIS, the site was designed in FrontPage, and the manual states that Internet Explorer 5.5 or above [nothing else] is required for access), I'm pretty sure they want it to be accessed only with Internet Explorer.
    • Constant Logins: Logging in to the main part of the program works OK, but this program forces you to log in every single time you want to add a new member! Couldn't they have set it up so that you'd only have to log in once, and log out when someone else has to enter in new members?
    • Bad UI Design: I don't consider myself that knowledgable about UI design, but I definitely know that there's quite a few screwups here:
      • For the name, the form has it set up in the order of "First Name", "Middle Initial", and "Last Name" - The club's paper form uses "Last Name" and "First Name", in that order...And so does the program's own site on the part where you order cards, which lists "Last Name" and "First Name", in that order.
      • For the address, they have it set up in the order of "Address", "City", "Country", and "State" (except for "Country" [which is a drop-down box], they're all input boxes)...And on another form for the site, there's no "Country" box, and "State" is a drop-down box instead.
      • Phone numbers are put into a single input box, as one continuous line of numbers (no parentheses, hyphens, or spaces)...And in another of their forms, the single input box for phone numbers is split into three parts.
      • The "Gender" field is two radio buttons, and defaults to "Male" (and it's very easy to overlook here)...But on another of their forms, it's a much more noticeable drop-down box, with neither gender selected as the default.
      • In the manual, some images of the program make it look like parts of the program were designed by someone new to Visual Basic (nothing personal against the program - this is in regards to the appearance of some programs I've seen that were created in it by people new to Visual Basic). In some, the appearance of the buttons and text looked like something all the way back from Windows 3.1 (which I haven't used in a long time)! This isn't that old of a program, either - The manual for it was last revised in February of this year, and in some parts of the manual, the images of the program clearly show it being run on Windows XP (by how the window borders, title bar, and Minimize/Maximize/Close buttons look).

In my opinion, this was a horribly inefficient program, and personally, I don't want to do any more data entry with that program, given the trouble I had with it.

As for today, I pretty much laid down for awhile, sat around, and worked on getting this blog entry posted. That's about it for what I did this week.

Another Busy Week…

April 9, 2005 at 4:21 PM

This week went a little better - here's what I was doing:

  • Working with envelopes and papers (on Monday and Tuesday). This included:
    • Putting labels on envelopes. Each label listed a district and the number associated with it. There were three sets of envelopes that had to be done per district (222 in total).
    • Tri-folding papers and placing them in the envelopes after they were labeled.
    • Binding each set of three envelopes with a rubber band.
    • Making sure each district had a ballot box key, which was put inside a small yellow envelope big enough to hold it, and grouped with the rubber-banded envelopes. Quite a few needed their yellow envelopes retyped (I tore up the old ones to avoid accidentally using them if I lost track of anything), which was a bit difficult to do as the typewriter would either smear the text near the top of the envelope, or throw the envelope off-balance when pressing the Enter/Return key. I also ran out of correction tape and had a lot of trouble getting it (and the typewriter ribbon case, which connects to the correction tape's case) back into the typewriter properly, because it wouldn't advance the tape when I typed. One of the office workers helped me get this fixed (turns out one thing I needed to do when reinserting the ribbon and tape wasn't listed on the directions), though the top portions of letters that are tall ("b", "d", "f", etc.) kept getting cut off. I solved this problem by taking one of the torn-up yellow envelopes and placing it between the ribbon case and the metal part that holds it in place - it brought the ribbon up enough so the letters wouldn't get cut off anymore.
  • Using the mask puncher - this was used for punching holes in the masks for the punch-card booths (from Wednesday to Friday). It's about the only thing I actually hate to use there, as it's very old (there's a lot of gold-colored shavings on parts of it - it's from the brass that's worn off from the roller rubbing against two metal bars above it), and I have a lot of trouble getting it to work when having to punch a lot of holes at the same time. At one point, I ended up actually bending back one of the metal bars (which holds the roller down) enough to prevent it from working (the bars are fairly thick, too), and had to hold off doing more work on it until the day after, when one of the maintenance people fixed that bent bar by straightening it out in a vice. It also seems I'm the first person in the courthouse to do this, and (by their comments) apparently am stronger than I look...But maybe it's because (given how difficult it is to punch some cards with that thing) I put a good bit of my body weight into pushing down the lever sometimes =P
  • Typing my boss's name and title, stamping her signature, and using an embosser with the county's seal on it for watcher's certificates (from Wednesday to Thursday). This took awhile to do (my right hand was sore from embossing all of those certificates - its lever is far more uncomfortable than the mask puncher's), but I couldn't do anything else on Wednesday, when I broke the mask puncher.
  • I finished up the mask punching on Friday - it turns out that one side of the puncher wasn't lifting up when the lever was lifted, which probably contributed to the bent bar. The rollers (and other parts) had some WD-40 sprayed on them, which made it a lot easier to use. I didn't have to throw my body weight into pushing down the lever anymore, just to punch a lot of holes in a few of the cards =P
  • On Friday afternoon, I started working on copying specimen ballots. Each piece of paper has two pages of the ballot, and when copying them, they have to be split on separate pages (using one of the copier's functions to do so).

I also got my first paycheck of the year this week, too =)

It’s Been a Busy Week…

April 2, 2005 at 10:56 PM

This week has been busy...And it didn't help that I was still feeling sick until Wednesday, when I pretty much recovered from whatever had made me sick. And now Mom's feeling sick, though I'm not sure what it's from this time (it's not what I had, as she was already sick from that)...

My daily schedule for the job is as follows:

  • 6:30 AM: Get up and get ready for work.
  • 7:30 AM: Mom gets home, and drives me to work.
  • 8:00 AM - 12:05 PM: Do work at the courthouse.
  • 12:05 PM - 1:05 PM: Eat lunch.
  • 1:05 PM - 4:30 PM: Continue doing work at the courthouse.
  • 4:30 PM: Go home.

I get home around 4:45 PM, and usually feel pretty tired from working the whole day, so I'm not on the computer that much...And as a result, I can't keep up with some of the things I do (forum visiting, comment posting, etc.), so I won't be doing much online, except on weekends.

My work at the courthouse has consisted of the following so far:

  • Checked ballot pages for typographical errors, people in the wrong positions, or people on the wrong ballot (there's two types - a Democratic one, and a Republican one). If something wrong was found, I had to contact my boss and get a fixed copy of the ballot page printed out.
  • Photocopied ballot pages and letters to candidates. For letters to candidates, I just made a large number of copies, and headed back to the copier if I ran out. For ballots, it's a bit harder: there's 74 districts to take into account, and a ballot page has to be copied for each candidate listed on a particular page. Most had two or three, some had five to seven, some had none (all positions listed were write-ins, so I didn't need to photocopy those pages =) ), and one had ten. There was a lot of copying going on that day - I'd say there were at least 400 candidates in total to make copies for.
  • Checked envelopes to make sure the name and address listed on them are correct, and retyped them (on an electric typewriter) if they were wrong.
  • For each candidate, I folded up a copy of the letter to them, along with the ballot page(s) containing their name, and placed it in their envelope. The envelopes didn't have to be licked shut, as there's a machine for sealing them...And since I finished all of them before lunch one day, one of the ladies in the courthouse was nice enough to do that for me while I was gone =D
  • And currently, the job I'm doing is actually meant to be done in between other tasks...But since I finished all the tasks I was supposed to do, and my boss wasn't around on Thursday or Friday to give me a new task to do, I'm going through all the boxes of absentee ballot envelopes, rubber-banding them in sets of 100, and putting them back in their boxes. I first count out a set of 100, and weigh it on a small digital scale. I then use the weight listed on that scale to (quickly) count out 100 envelopes by weight (give or take an envelope or two [which I was told was OK], since there's different styles of envelopes, and they have slightly different weights as a result), rubber-band them, and put them (neatly) back in the box.
    There were about seven or eight big boxes, with envelopes not stacked very well, that took a long time to get done (about 45 minutes per box) - At one point, I tried lifting one box up from the floor to put it on the desk (so I wouldn't be standing up and bending over constantly while moving the ballots back and forth), but dropped the box after a few seconds (fortunately, nothing was damaged or fell out of the box). I decided to leave these boxes on the floor, and just pull and push them as necessary to get the envelopes taken care of.
    The smaller boxes (about the size of shoeboxes) are much easier to manage - I can actually pick them up (two at a time), so that means I can put them on the table; the envelopes they have are stacked better (they're all in line), and there's only enough ballots to make between five and six sets per box. These things allow me to get the ballots sorted much faster (about 5-7 minutes per box). I already went through over 25 of these boxes (taking some time out to tape the damaged ones so they wouldn't break open), and I have somewhere between 25-30 to go.

That was week one. I wonder what I'll be doing for next week?

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