A new Center for Digital Government (CDG) survey shows state and local elections processes remain largely manual and paper based. But jurisdictions are beginning to use technology to streamline and improve the chain of activities that supports elections.
The survey of more than 130 state and local government elections officials found that 26 percent of survey respondents said their processes are completely manual, while 40 percent said they currently use a mix of manual and automated solutions to manage election-related activities.
Running an election is a complex operational exercise. For most local governments, it includes hiring a temporary workforce of poll workers, printing multiple versions of each election ballot, testing and deploying election hardware to polling sites, and processing candidate declarations and financial disclosures.
Many jurisdictions still conduct these activities by hand or use rudimentary technologies like Excel spreadsheets. Newer, cloud-based elections management systems can help modernize many election processes. When used well, such technologies can also improve communications between officials and election workers, provide data to help election officials make more informed decisions, and more.
Jurisdictions that have implemented modern elections management systems find they can streamline the processes behind running elections and reduce the time it takes to perform election tasks – benefits that are particularly important given most elections offices have small staffs and limited budgets.
Modernizing Equipment Inventory
Denton County, Texas, which has approximately 530,000 registered voters and 17 full-time employees, previously relied on Excel spreadsheets, sticky notes and institutional knowledge when it came to running elections. But when a 20-year employee retired and took a wealth of knowledge with her, county officials realized it was time to put more formal processes and systems in place.
The county adopted EasyVote’s Election Management Platform, which consists of six software modules to support a variety of tasks. For example, the county uses EasyInventory, an election inventory management solution, to track hardware and supplies during all phases of an election. EasyInventory also streamlines equipment deployment and return processes and provides a comprehensive history for any piece of hardware.
“EasyInventory provides us data we can refer to so if we’re ever asked where a piece of equipment has been during the last 10 elections, we can easily access that data,” says Brandy Grimes, deputy elections administrator for Denton County.
Jefferson County, Texas, which has approximately 154,000 voters and just five full-time staff members, also uses EasyInventory to track inventory during elections.
“It’s very important to make sure everything is delivered at the polling locations,” says Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry. “If something isn’t scanned in, especially once the polls are open, it presents a problem. With this solution we can go back and look through the audit log to make sure everything has been delivered correctly.”
Managing Poll Workers and Campaign Filings
Workforce management was a top challenge cited by CDG survey respondents. Denton County uses another EasyVote software application, EasyPollWorker, to streamline management of its election workforce. EasyPollWorker lets the county view comprehensive records of each poll worker’s employment history and performance; enables communication with poll workers via email, text or mail; and tracks all correspondence.
“EasyPollWorker also helps us with training because poll workers can see the schedules themselves and sign up for classes instead of us having to take phone calls for hours. And because we do hands-on training, we limit class sizes. We can do that easily with EasyVote,” says Grimes.
In addition, Denton County uses EasyCampaignFinance, which allows election offices to automate filing and management of candidate eligibility and campaign finance reporting forms. EasyCampaignFinance ensures an accurate record of all filings and records a history of communication and any fines/fees levied against a candidate, reducing conflict and eliminating uncertainty from the eligibility process.
“We’ve gotten so many positive comments from elected officials and campaign filers because they don’t have to drive to our office to turn paperwork in anymore,” says Frank Phillips, Denton County’s elections administrator. “They can do it from their living room now if they want to.”
Phillips says EasyVote software also helped Denton County recoup election fund revenue, which is significant considering insufficient funding was cited as the top challenge for 41 percent of CDG survey respondents.
“Not only are we recovering more of our actual costs than we used to, we’re making more revenue,” says Phillips. “All [that money] goes into that fund than we can use for any of the initiatives, [anything] election related.”
Focusing on the Big Picture
EasyVote software is helping election offices in a number of jurisdictions modernize and streamline operational processes, capture data across different election tasks and reduce demands on staff time so they can focus on more strategic activities. With a cloud-based solution in the background tracking progress and providing detailed reporting, counties can concentrate on problem-solving and improving efficiency. And because EasyVote solutions are broken into modules, jurisdictions can modernize incrementally as they have time, budget and staff buy-in.
“Prior to implementing the campaign finance module, people would have to call our office to request what they needed, and we’d have to go into the record room and try to locate those documents,” says Grimes. “Modernizing some of our key processes has taken a lot off of things like that off our plate.”
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