Absentee ballot in mailbox

Leveraging Technology for a Secure, Efficient Election Process

These are tense times in the United States of America. The ’24 presidential election takes place on November 5, but primaries began in January and wrap up in June. “Super Tuesday” is March 5th, when more than a dozen states, including California and Texas, hold primaries. The Republican and Democratic conventions are scheduled for July and August.

Most Americans want to do their civic duty by voting. However, many informed citizens lead busy, frenetic lives. Finding time to stand in long lines at the polls on election day can be a struggle. Voters may have to leave work early, get a babysitter, encounter protesters, or find transportation. This report is not concerned with whom U.S. citizens will cast their votes. We focus on how they will do so in 2024 and how to handle the expected vote-by-mail volumes.

More Ballots are Coming

Will most people vote by mail this year or in person at polling places? Most importantly, how can we ensure mail-in balloting is as accurate and secure as technologically possible?

Speeding toward the second half of ’24, the ongoing election trend points toward more mail-in and absentee ballots. Election officials need to be ready to handle the volumes of ballots they must collect, sort, verify, and prepare for tabulation. With volunteer election workers getting more difficult to recruit, the only logical answer may be automation technology such as Correct Elect from Tritek Systems. The patented vote-by-mail solutions can process small or large volumes of ballots with signature detection and verification reporting.

To date, eight states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington) use universal vote-by-mail systems. Scholars have found that turnout increases in these states that send a mail ballot to every voter, the Idaho Capital Sun reported (October 2023). In New York state last September, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to strengthen early voting practices.

Bipartisan Efforts

Such efforts to encourage vote-by-mail are bipartisan. “While other states are working to restrict voting rights, I’m proud that here in New York we’re continuing to expand access to the ballot box,” stated NY Senator (D) Zellnor Myrie. “Our democracy is strongest when more voters can be heard.” Republicans, too, are pushing to get more party faithful to vote early and mail in their ballots, while also trying to assure them of ballot security. Bank Your Vote, an initiative from the Republican National Committee, is tapping into mail-in voter turnout tactics.

“We need a culture change with our Republican voters,” U.S. Representative Richard Hudson (of North Carolina), chair of the Republican Congressional Committee, told media in mid-November 2023. “We are united in our efforts to educate Republican voters on how, when and where to bank their votes before election day.”

Back in 2020, the State of Pennsylvania started permitting any individual to request a mail-in ballot. (In the past, a reason was required to obtain an absentee ballot). In the fall of 2023, over 1 million Pennsylvanians requested mail-in or absentee ballots for November’s general election, reported the Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, PA). Some 570,000 of those were returned by October 31. Qualified voters applied online; once received (via U.S. mail), they marked and returned their mail-in ballots by the specified deadline. To officially count, they had to be received by 8 p.m. on election day.

Demographic and Partisan Queries

The National Conference of State Legislatures sought to answer two oft-asked questions:

  1. Who uses absentee/mail voting?
    (See MIT’s Some Demographics on Voting By Mail.) 
  2. Does absentee/mail voting give an advantage to one party over the other?
    (The answer is mostly no; see a 2020 study from Stanford University.)

Turning to Technology

Keeping security and accuracy top of mind, Tritek’s Correct Elect technology records an image of each ballot envelope and checks for duplicates via a ballot ID that is encoded in the barcodes when ballots are printed. It also scans for a valid signature, separating any ballot envelopes that need further inspection by election workers.

Correct Elect advances and enhances the vote-by-mail process. It sorts the ballot envelopes by precinct or any other criteria the county chooses, to prepare them for opening and tabulation. Equipment operators never see the actual ballots, nor does the system do any vote-counting. Tritek has successfully installed custom-designed ballot envelope processing solutions in many cities and counties throughout the United States.

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