About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New NorCo Website Contains Only Four Years of Elections Results

Since Northampton County's new website went live last week, I've detailed numerous complaints, both here and here. In fairness, I need to tell you that Al Jordan, who manages Xerox' IT contract with the county, has been pretty responsive to complaints about a product that was very poorly tested.  But the problems continue. The latest concerns elections results.

On NorCo's old website, there was a direct link to the latest election results on the county's homepage. This is far from unusual. Lehigh County, Montgomery County, and  Bucks County are just a few of the counties with direct links to election results from their homepage. But not Northampton.

In fact, it's hard to even find the elections office.

On the old website, the office was featured separately among the many departments of county government. But that's no longer so. A person who wants to find the elections department is going to have to go through all departments until he stumbles upon it, listed under County Administration.

If you look at the County's Administrative Code or Home Rule Charter, you'll see no provision placing elections under administration. In fact, the Home Rule Charter establishes an independent elections commission to run elections.

That's why it should be featured separately. Also, as a practical matter, residents looking for that office should be able to find it without looking for a needle in a haystack,especially as an election draws near. A voter may need absentee ballots, may want  to register online, or he may just want to know where they are voting. But the way the website is designed, it's difficult to find one of the county's most vital offices.

If you do succeed in finding it, there are more problems. The older version of the website included at least 12 years of prior election results. Lehigh County's webpage goes back 14 years. This is a great resource for people looking for trends and shifts. Yesterday, I saw a wonderful colored map, prepared by GIS, that shows turnout by municipality. It was quite interesting. This is the kind of stuff that would be great on a new website. But this wonderful map was relegated to a bulletin board, to be viewed by title searchers who never vote.

The new website was supposed to retain all information contained on the old site. But almost all of the prior election results have disappeared. Only the last four years of election results are still online.  

To make matters worse, a link to campaign finance reports is gone.Though finance reports were only placed online for a few years, that resource enables people to follow the money. ... Until it is taken away.

If the elections office is hard to find online, that means some people will give up on registering, getting absentee ballots or finding out where they need to vote. Then they'll just give up on voting.

Whether by accident or design, the county's new website will suppress turnout.

Maybe this is what Council member Seth Vaughn was talking about when he told me he could skip an important Budget hearing and people will still vote for him. Who cares? Newspapers are struggling to cover local government, and that opens the door to all kinds of mischief.

Like redesigning a webpage to make it more difficult for people who want to exercise their right to vote.

In an era where technology is supposed to improve our access to information, this webpage does the exact opposite.  


Anonymous said...

"If it works good don`t fix it!"

Anonymous said...

Wasn't council member Vaughn the county liaison to the web site reconstructing committee?

Anonymous said...

Another Brown and Cathy Allen disaster! Old website worked OK. Now what? Where is council oversight?

Anonymous said...

With these kinds of issues, what are the chances that the civil computer system will ever happen? Will abstractors even be able to use it if it does?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can tell you I won't be using it until I have thoroughly tested it.

Anonymous said...

This is the same county that administers electronic voting machines. They seem to have put the "no" in technology.

Anonymous said...

Time to hire competent IT people.