"Regee" Registration and Elections software
Information for Registration and Elections
Well now you’ve done it. You are in a position with
the Pima County Recorder’s Office where you’re
going to have to use that strange-looking TV-typewriter,
the big, bad computer box.
If you’re comfortable around computers, forgive us
while we reassure the computer-phobic among you that this
really is a painless sort of exercise that helps them do
Take heart, cyber-scardeycats. You are working with some
real human beings—and some rare characters—here
in the Recorder’s Office. You are also working with
the voters, the taxpayers, the citizens of Pima County,
because we are here to serve them. They ask us for information.
We turn to the computers to give them answers.
There’s good news and bad news about that.
The bad news is that you have to tell the computer exactly
what you want, because it isn’t smart enough to figure
out what it is you mean. Like it or not, you’re going
to have to adapt to working with the machine.
Here’s the good news: this book shows you how.
Much of the time you should probably have this book open
while you try what we’re talking about. Once you get
started using the computer, it will all start to make sense.
Why, before you know it you could become one of those people
who used to hate computers—until you found out that
they really do help you work.
You see, once you get past the fear of the unknown machine,
the sooner it can become your friend and ally.
In other words, relax. This isn’t going to hurt a
It’s easy to think it’s just a job. You have
tasks to complete, hours you work and you have a boss.
But in the big picture, you serve democracy.
You are a part of the organization that enables the people
of Pima County to elect your boss, the County Recorder,
the County Supervisors, the Governor and the President.
You enable the people of Arizona to propose laws and recall
scoundrels from public office.
We fought world wars to make the world safe for democracy.
In emerging nations and among oppressed people, the people
cry out for democracy.
The machinery of democracy is lists. Lists of voters, lists
of petitions, people and propositions, all which take hard
work—and smart work—to manage and make the information
available to the voters.
Now of all the things computers do, managing lists is one
of the things they do best. So in a modern government office
we put computer at your desk to put the machinery of democracy
at your fingertips.
Of course, that’s where you come in. You take those
phone calls. You answer the voters’ questions. You
look up the information on the computer.
As a part of the County Recorder’s office, you serve
the people of Pima County. Your most vital tools is a helpful
attitude. After that, your next most important tool is that
computer on your desk, connected to the bigger computers
where we store the vital records of Pima County’s
Information at your fingertips
The slick Registration and Election program we run here
in Pima County didn’t just fall from the sky. After
years of trying and failing to run commercial software,
the County Recorder got lucky.
A young Australian programmer-analyst named Paul Barber
came along. He single-handedly designed, built and refined
a system that maintains 69 different lists. Information
on these lists are interrelated in a highly complex web
of data that magically becomes just what you wanted to know
on the screen right in front of you.
It’s so user-friendly and user-smart, in fact, that
we’ve given it a friendly name: Say hello to Regee,
the Registration and Election system designed by and for
Pima County, Arizona.
Vast stores of data in
the back room
Let’s give you an idea of the vast amount of information
you have to deal with. At this writing, Pima County is approaching
500,000 registered voters. For each of those voters Arizona
law requires full names, a residential addresses, dates
of birth political party preference and voter ID numbers.
We add mailing addresses, places of birth, parents’
names and Social Security numbers as identifiers. Add the
history of registration changes and in which elections each
voter participated. Pile all that on top of geocoding that
determines the jurisdictions in which each voter lives and
the polling places where that person participates.
Then there’s absentee voting and petitions for initiatives,
referenda, nominating and recalling candidates.
We store not just nice, compact data, but also pictures
of voter affidavits and signatures to verify identity.
All the data in stored in the computer room in the corner
of the office on some sophisticated equipment. It’s
there to feed you the facts you need at a moment’s
Pushing Participation on Reluctant Citizens
Here in the United States where large-scale democracy
was born, voter participation has been steadily declining
in the second half of the Twentieth Century.
What happened? Why has voter turnout tumbled over several
decades? Politicians and pundits are never short on theories
as to the reason why.
There’s the Government as Bad Guy theory. After the
Kennedy and King assassinations, the Vietnam war and Watergate,
people are skeptical of government. So in the movies, on
TV, in the papers, government is seen as a sinister force
with hidden agendas galore.
There’s the Nobody Deserves my Vote theory. The press
exposes the bad news about politicians. And those same politicians
get elected by telling us how wicked their opponent is.
Then everybody asks why politicians are held in the same
contempt as used car salespeople in loud plaid sportcoats.
And there’s the Why Bother, I Make No Difference
theory, a self-fulfilling approach for people willing to
rationalize their way out of their precious rights that
America established in 1789 and has been fighting for ever
Against this tidal wave of contempt for the process, consider
yourself a defender of democracy. The NVRA was adopted to
slow this avalanche of public distrust. It’s up to
you to reinvigorate American democracy by taking the NVRA
to heart and registering voters.
Who Makes the Rules
The County Recorder’s office is a bureaucracy, run
by the County Recorder who is elected by the people. But
that’s only the beginning.
While the Recorder is elected, the person holding the office
is still responsible to the Pima County bureaucracy, of
which this office is a part, all run by the County Board
of Supervisors, which calls elections and sets county policy.
County government gets its authority from the State of
Arizona. Our ground rules come from Arizona Revised Statutes
Title 16 dealing with voting and elections, and ARS Title
19 dealing with voter initiatives and referenda. In addition,
all County Recorders report to the Arizona Secretary of
State, who provides registration and election training for
workers around the state.
All those state laws have many provisions that say "The
County Recorder shall. . ." Any time you see that phrase,
it can refer to the recorder personally, or an employee
acting on the Recorder’s behalf. So when the laws
say what the Recorder is supposed to do, remember that this
The United States government got into the act in 1993 when
voter participation in elections was dropping. Congress
passed the National Voter Registration Act, which took effect
on January 1, 1995. You’ll hear this referred to in
the office as the NVRA. From now on, you can nod with sage
wisdom when someone refers to the NVRA and know what they’re
Known around the country as the "motor voter"
law, the NVRA was designed to make voting laws uniform throughout
the country. The law established voter registration sites
at Motor Vehicle Divisions throughout the country, hence
the "motor voter" nickname.
The law established that registration offices like ours
were to serve the public, and not do what is simply convenient
for the bureaucracy. So we have to reach out to voters to
encourage registration. We have to make sure people who
change address in this mobile nation of ours are not denied
the right to vote just because they move.
The NVRA set procedures for updating registration rolls
through post office mailings, and prohibited us from dropping
voters just because they have failed to vote.
The NVRA also extended the use of absentee voting to an
"early voting" system for more people to cast
ballots without having to personally make that trip to the
polling place on election day. That includes "satellite
voting" at public places throughout them county.
Again, the NVRA mandated that it is we who must serve the
public convenience so that it is our responsibility to encourage
a citizen at a new address to re-register, not the citizen’s
duty to notify us.
First we’ve reassured you. Then we frightened you.
Now that you’re thoroughly confused, let’s leap
joyfully into the next chapter and get into Regee, where
we’ll register a new voter.
Onward into the fog.
Two full volumes of documentation,
one for users, the other for administrators, assembled from
Joe Gold's extensive interviews with the software author,
system administrator, office manager, staff users.