New Board of Elections Site

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The reason I’ve been putting in so many late hours since the first of the year is now live to the world. The new Cuyahoga County Board of Elections site is now live. Our whole group has done pretty much nothing but recode the site from the ground up since January 1st. I put together a site tour to show off all of the new bells and whistles, but I’ll touch on my favorites here.

My Voting Information

The My Voting Information page is a great one-stop-shop for personalized voting information, all of which is public record. If you enter your last name and date of birth you get detailed results concerning your polling location, ballot, district information, past election participation [not your votes, just the elections you’ve voted in], poll worker participation and community outreach events in your city. There’s even a Google map which will give you directions from your home to your polling location.

Election Results Wizard

The Election Results Wizard lets you follow only the races you’re interested in instead of having to scroll through the huge master results list.

Events Calendar

The Events Calendar lets you search for the events that you’re interested in, and only the events you’re interested in.

Validation, Accessibility

Working within the design constraints [not a big fan of having to use #EF3E42] and the constraints of the ASP.NET CMS was great for the most part. I’m still having fits trying to get the server to stop spitting out so much trash code, but I’ve learned a lot about styling within .NET itself. Despite that, I’m at a loss of what to do with the remaining validation errors since even the three images missing alt attributes are inaccessible because they aren’t hard-coded. I managed to give them title attributes, but can’t figure out the alt text trick. I’m trying to convince the developers to take the Google Map API key out of the web.config and put it back into the script where it typically is because ASP.NET doesn’t allow code blocks within the header. This means there are script references outside of the header. And, ASP.NET labels spit out everything between tags which the validator also chokes on because block-level elements can’t be contained within inline elements.Update: I’ve whittled down the validation errors to one, the onClick attribute that’s called as a user control for the site search. That’s definitely one for a developer to look at. The alt attributes were inserted by using a text=”” attribute in the asp:hyperlink line. I’m used to a text attribute actually spitting out text, so that wasn’t an intuitive choice for me. The Google API isn’t called until someone actually clicks on a directions link, so there are now no scripts outside of the header, and all those span tags can be gotten rid of by using ASP:Literal elements instead of ASP:Label ones. That simple switch cleaned up about 80% of the trash code that I was seeing upon viewing source. I’m learning even more. Maybe I’ll even learn some programming here in a bit.

There might be a better way to go about this, but I’ve not had the chance to take an ASP.NET course yet, and it is new hat to the developers as well. Those guys are friggin’ heroes though, no doubt.

In accessibilityland, unfortunately the site is heavily dependent on JavaScripts. There isn’t really anything I can do about that as a designer, and most of the interactive items depend on it. I made sure to provide access keys and tab indexing where it would be helpful and we’re now providing an accessibility statement, at least. There is always more to be done, but the honest truth is that accessibility becomes a low priority when the limits of time, money and interest are more concerned with other things. On the bright side, the new site is worlds better than the old one for those who use alternative browsing methods.

The End

In the end I hope that [as cheesy as it sounds] my work on the BOE site will help improve the electoral process and experience for folks in Cuyahoga County. Although I say so myself, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections site is the best board of elections site I’ve seen. I hope it influences others to step up their game as much as the Web Group at the ISC has these past two months.

Time for a beer.

Life

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Life has been too busy to pay much attention to this website. I’ve got a redesign about halfway done, but it will continue to languish until I don’t have to put in quite so many hours at work; so, after the March 4 Primary. There have been a lot of errands to take care of lately, framing art, working on curtains, getting a rug for the bedroom, so the bed doesn’t ruin the wood floors, working on the wall in the entry room, paying down debt, doing laundry, doing dishes, along with various other appointments.

I’ve had a bad sore throat/chest congestion for a week now. I finally bought some Mucinex, but although others swear by it, I notice no change in my ability to hack up dense globs of phlegm. Sleeping is a nightmare.

On the baby front, we can feel him kick and punch and throw dance parties all of the time. Apparently he really likes peanut butter.

For dinner tonight I’m making sweet potato gnocchi with sautéed artichoke hearts and broccoli with meatballs on the side.

Eulogy for Frances Sue Berkshire

Saturday, 16 February 2008

My grandma died last Sunday night. Her obituary can be found here. I no longer have any grandparents. Grandma Berkshire was a strong woman. She grew up in the Great Depression, but she liked to point out that she grew up on a farm, so while they were poor, they had plenty to eat. She was born in Kokomo, IN, but grew up in Flora, a place I’ve never been, but one I’ve passed by a few times on my way to West Lafayette. She lived for years just down the road in Logansport, IN, where she raised 4 children, including my mom. I’ve written about her once before, so this post is likely to have some repeats.

She loved dirty jokes and beating the tar out of anyone she played at Scrabble. I only ever beat her once. She was a great partner at bid euchre, and a great grandmother altogether. When she lived in Connersville, I used to ride the bus to their house after school and watch the afternoon Disney cartoons in the kitchen. I’d sneak E.L. Fudge cookies from the cookie jar. At least I thought I did, Grandma was on to me, but pretended not to hear. It was rough at the wake. There were displays of Grandma throughout life, the book of her life with Grandpa which they received at their 50th wedding anniversary; and a book of her poems. She wrote poems for the family for the big events in our lives; I received one for my high school graduation. When I came to that page, I finally let myself cry. Grandma had so much love for all of us.

She always asked Grandpa to fix her half a drink, and when she’d feed me, she’d always try to get me to eat more, insisting “there’s only a dab left.” She saved everything. The bags bread came in, the wire twists that kept them shut, infinite plastic containers, political paraphernalia from years gone, everything. And I was terrified of coming anywhere near The Lamp.

In typical Grandma fashion, she planned her funeral ahead of time, down to the last details. Readings, songs, who she wanted to do what, even the type of flower she wanted, ivory roses, were laid out for us. My mom and Camy read the eulogy, and did a great job. They ended with a poem that Grandma had written for her own funeral, which tore the floodgates open anew. After the funeral Mass, we learned that my cousin Chris, who was singing along with my cousin Jess, said “Shit, I have to sing now?” right after the eulogy, and into the microphone. He was worried that everyone heard it. I don’t think anyone did, but if Grandma had, she’d’ve been, in her words, “tickled.”

There is no way to say enough about her, but it is easier to point out the excellent family that surrounds me as a testament to her love and abilities. I miss you, Grandma.

Notes, Lately

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

$110

  • $110 will get you approximately 250 items of secondhand baby clothes. No one needs to buy us anything resembling a baby cloth for at least the next 9 months.
  • The Bobby website accessibility validator is no longer available online. It is now bundled into a piece of IBM software for purchase only. This makes it harder, not easier, for web designers to build accessible websites.
  • It is faster to ride RTA downtown than drive, since the E 9th and Euclid intersection snarls everything up. It is actually faster to exit on E 22nd Street and backtrack.
  • No one is used to the bus lanes yet, they’re being used as right turn lanes, which further snarls traffic.
  • After 3 years of paying my consolidated college loans on time, I just received at 1% reduction in the interest rate. Now it is at 2.375%, which is awesome. I can pay it off faster now.