Last election, I noticed an annoying problem with volunteer phone banks-- not everybody had a computer to use in updating contact info in real time as they were making calls. Naturally, we printed contact sheets and at the end of the night there was a stack of paper that needed entered. Most nights, the data entry wasn't too painful but in aggregate it's a pretty big time sink. The other problem being that the logistics of having computers that needed plugged in made it so people had to cluster uncomfortably close together and ended up talking over each other. Some volunteers opted for paper lists just to be able to work in the hall.
I was really interested in finding a way to deal with all that paper.
At the time I looked at some of the open source OMR projects out there-- SDAPS, SQS, etc. They seemed promising since they can take existing PDF files, you define the areas that signal an input and after processing you can export as csv. Better, they seemed able to read barcodes, so it should be possible to export call lists with the appropriate ID encoded as a barcode and associate the fill-in bubbles with the correct fields. A test run was less than positive. It was easy enough to mock up a template PDF with all of the fill-in bubbles and such. Printing the sheets was pretty painful since it involved exporting the call sheets to a spreadsheet, doing a mail merge to get the layout correct and get IDs barcoded and then printing. Scanning back in wasn't too bad since the printer had a sheet-fed scanner. The software chugged through the stack brilliantly and we were able to update the contact records in a single step.
Then the call script changed and we went back to manual data entry.
Has anybody else worked with OMR for their data entry? I know with the ability to use smartphones and web forms, paper is an anachronism that's on its way out but there has to be some edge cases out there.