Election Day 2018: A View from the Polls

As a voting technology company, helping our partners deliver high-integrity, secure elections is our mission. Our goal is to make heroes out of our customers, and to effectively do that, we need to understand every aspect of their job. We feel the best way to learn is by doing, so several of our employees- those who weren’t already busy helping our government partners deliver elections on the big day-  volunteered as poll workers in their respective counties.

The Voters & Volunteers

In Cuyahoga County, OH, our team member Liv witnessed a man cry proud tears of joy as his girlfriend voted for the first time.

In another Ohio county, software engineer Matt B. worked alongside a Vietnam veteran with late stage Parkinson’s Disease. Matt found his dedication to service inspiring, as his condition didn’t hinder his enthusiasm for spending the day saluting and talking with fellow veterans, handing stickers to voters, and engaging with kids who came with their parents.

Another exciting trend our team noted was the large number of young new voters coming out to the polls. It’s great to see that kind of engagement, especially for a midterm election!

The Challenges

Voters had a variety of questions on election day, ranging from confusion about why their polling location had been moved, why they were or were not registered to vote by mail, why their name wasn’t on the register, and general voting questions like if they were allowed to leave a contest blank. There were practical challenges as well, such as voters forgetting their glasses and thus having trouble reading the ballots!

Provisional Ballots

In San Diego, our Sales Director Midori was astounded that her precinct had to issue 50 provisional ballots. That means one in every four of the voters had to vote provisionally. According to a 2018 EAC survey, roughly 20% of all provisional ballots are rejected in a midterm election.

“After personally interacting with these folks, I felt disappointed knowing their vote might not count,” Midori explained. “Especially seeing how many were elderly, or had some type of physical disability that required extra effort to get to the poll.”

According to Midori, the most common reason for issuing provisionals that day was that people didn’t realize they were registered as mail voters, or they never received their mail ballot materials. Another challenge was that voters couldn’t make it to their own polling location, or didn’t want to – not hard to understand knowing how large San Diego county is, and how bad the traffic can be! So they opted for a provisional ballot rather than not voting at all.

In one Ohio county, a mailer with incorrect information was sent to voters mere days before the election, claiming that voters could drop absentee ballots off at polling locations on the day of the election. Corrected information wasn’t well distributed, so about a dozen or so voters were required to cast provisional ballots.

Poll Books: Paper vs Technology

In Ohio, our volunteer poll workers saw first hand the efficiency that technology brings to the polls, as many counties have recently switched to electronic pollbooks.

“The e-pollbook software we were using kept check-in times down to just about a minute, said Matt B. “We were able to check-in voters at an average of about 100 voters per hour and none of those voters were required to know their precincts. So many voters openly expressed approval for the role of technology in the process and recognized how much it was improving the experience.”

San Diego county uses paper registers rather than electronic, and the difference in efficiency was noticeable.  

“After working on so many projects with electronic poll books, I was reminded how slow and cumbersome it is to work off of a paper poll book,” said Midori. “Not to mention those paper cuts, ouch!”

At the End of the Day

For our staff, the general consensus was that it was an inspiring, enjoyable, very exhausting day. An election day may have its challenges and bumps, but the overall commitment of the volunteers and election administrators working together to make the day as easy as possible for voters is incredible. While from a business perspective, understanding how elections run on a micro-level is necessary to identify ways Votem can help improve efficiency through our products and services, from a personal level, being on the front lines to witness our fellow citizens’ commitment to democracy re-energized our team. After election day, we’re all excited to get back to our work of using technology to make voting easier, more secure, and verifiable!

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