Michael Sparks, Director of Government Sales at Zebra Technologies, explains how the safety of the US voting process can be improved with specific technology
In the last several years, local election administration officials have increasingly implemented new ways to improve the efficiency, security, and safety of the US voting process; and given the continued spread of COVID-19, the stakes are even higher this election year.
Despite the push for mail-in voting, the reality is that many states will still be setting up in-person voting locations during the elections this fall. Election officials are finding that technology can be a valuable tool in keeping both workers and voters safe during election preparation and administration.
Better asset management, more efficient polling site
One of the biggest logistical challenges that election administration officials face is the physical process of setting up local polling locations. Equipment ranging from pens and parking signs to voting booths and machines must be moved from storage to polling sites in schools, libraries, churches and other widely dispersed physical locations throughout a county, city, or township. With safety top of mind right now, some municipalities are adding other items like plexiglass shields to the list.
Many counties still use a cumbersome, manual paper-based system to track these assets. Not only is this inefficient, but it also requires a lot of interaction between election workers, who often spend hours or days in a room checking off and marking items using pen and paper to ensure the right equipment is sent to the right location.
Today, many election officials are turning to barcoding or RFID technology to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the election set-up process. Election officials can use barcode or RFID tags placed on the voting equipment and boxes of materials to assign the items to polling sites, in essence creating a “packing list” for each location.
When workers arrive to transfer items from the storage area to a polling location, they simply scan the RFID or barcode tags to make sure they are transporting the right items. Once the items arrive at the polling location, workers can scan the tags again to make sure they have all the items they need. The process is fast, efficient, and accurate – reducing the amount of human interaction required in the set-up process.
Expediting the US voting process
Of course, reducing the amount of interaction is critical during the voting process as well. According to research from an MIT professor,[i] voters spent 23 million hours waiting in line to vote in 2012, which cost the United States $544 million in productivity. In the post-COVID world, long lines at the polls could put much more than just productivity at risk.
Technology can keep voters productive and safe by speeding up the process through faster voter identification and more automated voting. Mobile scanners allow poll workers to quickly scan a driver’s license or other photo identification and verify the voter’s data against the registration database. This system saves time by eliminating the need for poll workers to search through stacks of paper to verify voter identity.
Using technology, such as QR codes and mobile devices, voters can even make their voting selections before they arrive at the polling station. Local election administrators can post sample ballots online and give voters the option to save their votes and create a “poll pass” (similar to an electronic boarding pass) using a QR code on their mobile phones. These QR codes can be scanned at the polling place and a digital representation of the ballot reviewed by the voter. Once confirmed, the ballot is then printed to have a verifiable paper record.
Better ballot tracking to increase accuracy
Finally, barcoding technology can improve the tracking and confirmed delivery of ballots. Both used and unused ballots can be traced to ensure accurate vote counts at polling locations.
Preserving the integrity and safety of the US voting system – while also keeping poll workers and voters safe – is critical to the continued health of our country. That’s why technology solutions such as asset management, QR code-based “pre-voting” options, electronic voter identification and barcode ballot tracking have already been used in more than 100 elections across 23 states. And it’s why we will see more technology solutions that improve the voting process being implemented in the future.
To learn more about technology solutions helping government officials increase real-time asset visibility, click here.
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