The next U.S. presidential election is not so far away. And, while administrational methodologies may change, the basic importance of verifying signatures and tabulating ballots is agnostic to county or jurisdiction. City and county offices, staffed by permanent employees, typically oversee the administration of elections. When Election Day approaches, these employees rely on temporary poll workers — sometimes called election workers or election judges — to assist with a variety of tasks. Recruitment efforts are underway for the estimated 1 million poll workers needed for the election cycle that culminates every four years in November. Yet finding volunteers to complete the manual tasks associated with democratic elections can be challenging in these divisive, polarizing times. In 2020, 775,000 poll workers staffed over 132,500 polling places nationwide, according to data gleaned from the Election Assistance Commission. Some 52% of election jurisdictions admitted difficulties in obtaining enough poll workers. Why? Because, despite state and federal laws that protect election officials (and voters), many people feel intimidated by political activists. Fearing for their personal safety, these citizens no longer wish to volunteer their time. Indeed, threats, politicization and violence around the election process have increased dramatically since 2020, reported the not-for-profit Brennan Center for Justice, a law and public policy institute at New York University School of Law. This past October, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that seven states continued to see unusual levels of threats to election workers. In past elections, groups concerned about widespread voter fraud sought to encourage volunteer poll workers to challenge voters and question routine election processes. Some workers have been accused of fraudulent activity themselves. The working environment became uncomfortable for some people who had functioned as election helpers for years. An individual’s personal views or political party affiliation notwithstanding, reports of such incidents can affect the availability of temporary employees needed at election time. So, what’s the United States to do if it no longer can recruit a dependable and diverse cadre of poll workers to help generate a democracy that more fairly represents all Americans? The answer is objective machine automation. Election offices nationwide already rely on automated equipment to save time, increase accuracy, and reduce labor costs. This technology has two major benefits: 1) Automation reduces the number of temporary workers required for staffing during elections, and 2) it frees up officials to spend less time on training–and more time optimizing the process. Voting by Mail (VBM) Trends The use of absentee ballots is a practice that has been in place for over 160 years, since the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, 46% of U.S. voters voted by mail in 2020, reported the Pew Research Center, and 33% did so in the 2022 mid-terms. With so many people now voting by mail, it is more imperative than ever that county election offices implement secure procedures for collecting, imaging, and sorting mail-in ballots. In the next elections, officials will work within legal guidelines to validate and count ballots received by mail and, in many cases, could use some help. Solutions are needed for handling mail-in ballots–either manually or by machines and software like those offered by trusted partners, such as Tritek Solutions. Using automated ballot-scanning machines can significantly reduce errors associated with manual processing and increase voter confidence. For example, Tritek’s ballot envelope-processing system features automation to fit specific needs, thus providing a targeted county office ballot solution that meets each municipality’s unique requirements. Our innovative Correct Elect system offers proprietary, vote-by-mail automation customized to voting-district requirements. The patented systems are proven in the field, having been successfully implemented in numerous cities and counties. With a processing speed of 10,000 to 30,000 per hour, this solution is ideal for jurisdictions that have higher volumes of vote by mail ballot envelopes. Additionally, the Nomad OCR (optical character recognition) document-scanning solution for elections can process up to 3,000 pieces per hour. As a mail-imaging machine, Nomad scans each piece, making it easy to store and archive digital copies. The mail scanner is portable and tabletop-sized, making it easy to move around and plug into any regular 120V AC outlet. Plus, its OCR technology enables it to read every single piece that passes through it, ensuring that nothing gets missed. Remember, whether cast in person or by mail, votes count for people determined to do their civic duties. During the coming election cycles, let Tritek help you employ robust technology to ensure that their ballots are tabulated fairly and accurately!
Vote by mail is here to stay for the U.S. electorate. Despite polarizing opinions about mail-in ballots, recent elections have demonstrated the popularity of this voting method. Analysts from every position on the political spectrum agree that mail-in voting affects election outcomes. We also know that delayed election results breed unfounded suspicion about election integrity. To speed up the process, election officials are turning to automation and technology. Before Tabulation Before ballot envelopes are even opened, they must be sorted by precinct and pass the prescribed signature verification steps. Tritek’s patented technology automates these processes. Our solutions allow the ballots to enter the counting process quicker while building an audit trail that includes time-stamped images of every ballot that passes through the system. Our patented Correct Elect Vote by Mail technology drives solutions custom designed and built for each entity’s requirements. Tritek evaluates variables such as floor space requirements, volume fluctuations, and ballot designs to help customers acquire the combination of software and hardware that matches their needs. Defining Vote by Mail Mail balloting systems come in two varieties. The first is what some states call universal “vote by mail,” where the state government mails ballots to all voters. In most states, however, voting by mail is through absentee balloting, where the voter must request an absentee ballot. Despite partisan fears, research suggests neither party gains an advantage via mail-in voting. There is no evidence that mail ballots increase electoral fraud and several anti-fraud protections are built into the process. Though they came to the forefront during the COVID pandemic, mail-in voting was already gaining popularity. In 2016, nearly one-quarter of U.S. votes (33 million) were cast by either universal mail or absentee ballots.1 What is Automated Ballot Processing? Automated ballot processing uses hardware and software technologies to verify, sort, and tabulate mailed-in paper ballots instead of manually verifying and counting votes. Computerized technology is cheaper, faster, and more accurate than manual counting. It also improves the voting process by making complex electoral systems easier to use. With automated ballot processing, election offices can offer better security and faster results. The Need for Speed With automated ballot processing, election offices can increase citizen trust because technology is impartial. Voters can trust that election workers are custodians of important information and work in the community’s interests. Any improvements election officials can make to speed the announcement of results while maintaining the integrity of the process is positive. Trust declines if uncertainty about election winners linger. It is necessary to count ballots quickly for several reasons: Ensuring the accuracy of the election results: The quicker a jurisdiction can complete the ballot count, the faster they can announce the election results. Rapid processing helps ensure correct and reliable results, as automated systems identify errors or irregularities more quickly. Maintaining public confidence in the electoral process: When counties count ballots quickly, it prevents the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories that could undermine public confidence in the electoral process. People are more likely to trust the results that are announced promptly and transparently. Allowing for a smooth transition of power: When a change of leadership occurs, such as in a presidential election, counting the ballots quickly helps ensure a smooth and timely transition of power. Immediate processing is vital for maintaining political stability, continuity, and avoiding potential disputes or conflicts resulting from delayed information. Meeting legal requirements and deadlines: Election officials must meet some legal requirements and deadlines for the election results to be valid. A speedy count ensures they meet these requirements, and the election results are accurate and legally binding. In short, quickly counting votes is essential for ensuring the accuracy and legitimacy of election results. Speedy processing helps maintain public confidence in the electoral process, facilitates a smooth transition of power, and meets legal requirements and deadlines. Learn More About Automated Vote by Mail Processing: Why Election Officials Are Expecting a Surge in Vote-By-Mai How Does Automated Ballot Processing Work? Why Manual Ballot Handling is Not Enough Anymore www.brookings.edu/policy2020/votervital/how-does-vote-by-mail-work-and-does-it-increase-election-fraud/
Despite some voters and election boards questioning whether voting by mail in the 2020 presidential election was secure and efficient, the response was overwhelmingly positive. This comes as no surprise to those enrolled in the absentee voting program. Municipalities nationwide administer this program successfully. The difference between the past election and the next one is an expected increase in volume and added security. Analysts expect that after experiencing mail-in voting, more voters will choose this method in the future. State legislatures will work to make the process more efficient and avoid any element of mistrust. The Need for Automated Ballot Processing Mail-in voting makes the voting process easier. Voters can submit their ballot when it is convenient for them, rather than finding time on election day or during an early voting period. However, the surge of ballots that election centers receive is often overwhelming. It is taxing for small municipalities without enough employees they can redeploy to process the mail. Given that mail-in balloting is predicted to increase, and government employee count probably will not, how will city, county, and state governments count tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of ballots? Privacy and security are paramount concerns. Ballots must undergo a series of security measures, including signature matching and evidence of tampering. A mail-in ballot has two envelopes: an outer return envelope and an inner “carrier” envelope which holds the secret ballot. From a labor perspective, two envelopes must be opened, often by hand. Automated equipment and software allow election officials to process thousands of ballots per hour with secure tracking and accountability. How Does Automated Ballot Processing Work? Two processes are necessary—physical/mechanical and digital. The mechanical process includes opening the envelopes and extraction. The opening and extraction process uses precise milling technology and thickness detection. Automated opening is safer for the contents than opening by hand. The ballot is then transferred to a workstation and automatically sorted. Ballot integrity is fundamental to the voting process. Technology supports that value. The digital process provides an audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. Automated ballot processing systems can archive ballot scans in color, grayscale, or black and white. Accurate signature verification reduces labor costs of manual validation and assures regulatory and security compliance. The system detects ballots with barcodes and verifies signatures against a database of registered voters. Voter fraud or voting twice is virtually impossible with automated ballot processing. When a voter who has already voted via absentee ballot shows up at a polling station and tries to vote again, electronic poll books will display that information. Poll workers do not admit the voter to the polling station or voting booth. If a second vote slips through, the election computer system identifies two votes from the same voter and only counts the first one received. Any Size Municipality There is a misconception that vote-by-mail equipment is only for large voting operations. Some election experts assume that smaller districts handle absentee ballots manually. This is untrue. Automated ballot processing solutions can be configured to fit any size office. A desktop version is ideal for offices where volume is light, budgets are tight, and floor space is limited. For growing communities, sort bins and new features can be added at any time. The county will not have to “re-buy” a new system simply because voters have moved to the area. Automated ballot technology is scalable, based on volume and available space. In addition, automated ballot processing machines sort regular mail, not just ballots. The county’s inbound mail can be sorted with technology, rather than by hand. With automation, the county mail center can deliver departmental mail earlier in the day because the automated process is faster. Employees can act on mail sooner and improve service to their constituents. Technology processes inbound mail at speeds up to 15,000 pieces per hour, allowing organizations to redeploy manual sorting labor to other work. The equipment is not idle between elections. Execution Tritek features patented Vote-By-Mail technology. Each Vote-By-Mail Solution is custom designed and built for each municipalities’ specific requirements. This includes floor space requirements, volume fluctuations, and types of ballot designs. Portable and desktop systems are available. The number of sort bins is customizable based on volume requirements. Tritek’s Correct Elect technology is proven at many county election offices. Tritek holds the exclusive patent on the ballot method and apparatus to provide a full audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. Tritek’s patented Vote-By-Mail technology is at work in counties nationwide. We custom design and build Vote-By-Mail solutions that will fit any facility process virtually any mail volume and ballot design. Related Vote By Mail Resources: Top 5 Questions Election Officials Ask About Vote by Mail Is Vote By Mail Safe? Addressing Concerns with Automated Processing for Mail-In Ballots
Counties across the country are struggling to recruit enough staff for their election operations to sort and verify absentee ballots. This is becoming a problem now. You need not wait until the November mid-terms or the 2024 general election to see that staffing issues are impacting efficient ballot processing in primaries and local elections. Many factors contribute to this strain on resources, including COVID-19 health concerns, the “great resignation”, intermittent school closures, and competition from for-profit enterprises. Private companies are luring workers with enhanced wages and signing bonuses. Some election jurisdictions are responding to staffing challenges by paying election workers $15 per hour and recruiting them from distant locations, just to have enough people to process the ballots. At Tritek Technologies, we have heard from entities who previously believed they could not justify an investment in automated ballot-handling equipment. Now they realize that automation is becoming a necessity to carry out their duties in managing elections. Those who formerly saw automated equipment as “nice-to-have” are looking at their staffing situations and deciding their traditional reliance on volunteers may be insufficient. Space is Not a Limiting Factor Smaller districts often assume that vote-by-mail technology is complex, cost-prohibitive, and designed for large municipalities and states. They envision room-size sorting machines that take up valuable square footage. Those perceptions are untrue. Automated solutions from Tritek Technologies come in sizes designed to meet the needs of even small or medium size voting districts. Simply move them into storage when the machines are not in use and reclaim the space. Ballot processing equipment can sort ballots to the precinct level using multi-pass sort schemes. Making room for a bin to hold ballots for every precinct is not required. Vote-by-mail technology providers like Tritek help voting districts set up sort schemes to process their ballots according to the size of their operations and the number of sort bins installed on their machines. Correct-Elect Tritek’s Correct-Elect systems feature patented vote-by-mail technology that slashes an election office’s reliance on manual labor. Every solution is custom designed and built to handle each voting district’s requirements. Equipment specifications consider floor space availability, volume fluctuations, and ballot designs. Portable and desktop systems are options for lower volume and limited space environments. We customize the sorting bin layout according to a voting district’s volume requirements. One or two people can process ballots accurately, doing the work that would require dozens of volunteers or temporary workers. The machine can generate the results quicker than organizations can achieve with only manual labor. Our company holds exclusive patents on our ballot methods and apparatus. The vote-by-mail system provides a full audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. County election offices save ballot scans in color, grayscale, or black and white. Signature verification reduces the labor costs of validation and compliance even more. Signatures detected with barcodes are verified by a database of registered voters. Only the exceptions require human inspection. If a lack of people will keep your election operation from processing ballots on schedule, contact Tritek Technologies and ask about our flexible and affordable solutions. View Related Vote By Mail Resources: 10X Processing Speed for Vote By Mail Envelopes Why Election Officials Are Expecting a Surge in Vote-By-Mail Automated Ballot Processing: How it Works 5 Questions Election Officials Are Asking About Vote by Mail
This year, Vote by Mail has become a national obsession among politicians, news outlets, critics, and proponents. Several groups are pressing for states to encourage their citizens to lessen their exposure to the coronavirus by voting in the November election from their homes. Other groups vehemently oppose the idea. They are either concerned with the specter of voter fraud or believe vote by mail offers an advantage to one political party or the other. Most of the individuals we see reporting the news about vote-by-mail aren’t mailing professionals. They do not understand how mail is processed, transferred, and managed. Baseless claims, cherry-picked facts, and misinformation abound, which leads to confusion and concern. An election held amid a viral pandemic is a challenge no election boards were considering when they began planning their 2020 operations. Now they are scrambling to react to these unexpected conditions and pressure from all sides. The concern about an election based to a good degree on absentee ballots is well-founded. Analysts expect voter turnout this year to shatter previous records, and many citizens will exercise their option to vote by mail. According to the New York Times, three-quarters of voters in America will be eligible to vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election-a historic high point. In 34 states, voters can apply for absentee ballots because of the coronavirus, or for no reason at all. Many states recently changed their absentee ballot rules because of the pandemic. How Vote By Mail Works You may wonder how all this will work. The answers aren’t as straightforward as you might think. Because state or local officials, not a national agency, manage elections, policies and processes across the nation are inconsistent. The way jurisdictions handle incoming vote by mail ballots changes from place to place. Local laws, policies, procedures, and even the construction of the mail-in ballot packet will affect how election officials will deal with an unprecedented onslaught of ballots returned by mail or dropped into collection boxes by voters. Some states (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington) have conducted their elections entirely by mail for some time. From a ballot processing standpoint, this election will probably be business as usual for them. Through experience, these states have developed ballot designs, voter education programs, and ballot processing workflows that will allow them to handle the 2020 election with ease. Other parts of the country may have used automated systems for verifying and counting mail-in ballots in previous elections, but the expected increase in volumes this year will be a strain on capacity. Many of them are looking to suppliers like Tritek Technologies to augment their existing equipment with new ballot processing machines. Still other jurisdictions have always relied rely on manual workflows to process the low volume of absentee ballots they received. These smaller operations may be looking at mechanical ballot verification and sorting solutions for the first time. Tritek’s Correct Elect systems are suitable for such environments, but can also support larger operations. Though the rules and processes differ, the basics of inbound vote by mail ballot processing are similar across all election boards: Receive, track, and time-stamp incoming ballots Verify voter registrations and their addresses Verify the uniqueness of each ballot-only one ballot per voter is allowed, regardless of voting method Verify voter identity via signature comparison Separate any questionable ballots for examination by human bi-partisan teams Sort ballots by precinct Open envelopes Remove ballots from envelopes that contain voter identities-ballots are anonymous when votes are counted Tabulate votes Tracking and Verifying Some election-processing facilities use USPS Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb) to track the progress of each ballot as it travels from the voter to the ballot processing center. Incoming mail tracked via the IMb can also alert election headquarters if they do not receive expected batches of ballots on time. Note that ballots voters drop into ballot collection boxes instead of mailing them will not receive a USPS Intelligent Mail barcode. Voters in some states can subscribe to a free tracking service that issues personalized messages via text, email, or voice to provide information about the status of their ballots. Other systems don’t proactively send alerts, but can be accessed by voters to verify their ballots were received and counted. These measures help reassure voters the vote by mail system is working. If ballot signatures are missing or do not match the signatures on record, elections officials attempt to contact the voter so they may correct the deficiency and have their votes counted. Again, the local rules will determine how jurisdictions handle signature and registration verification. Encouraging voters to return their ballots early is one way to ensure they have time to make corrections before the ballot counting deadline arrives. What About Voting Twice? The idea of voting twice, by mailing an absentee ballot and then arriving at the polling place on election day to vote again, has been covered extensively in the news. Some speakers even suggested voters try this tactic as a way to test the integrity of the system. What they fail to mention is although it may be possible for voters to execute this maneuver in some instances, it’s unlikely for their votes to count twice. When someone has already voted via absentee ballot, electronic poll books used at polling stations will display the status of their vote and poll workers will turn the voter away. Should a voter slip through somehow, election systems will notice two votes from the same voter and only count the first one received. The other will be discarded. Election boards also conduct post-election audits to compare voter history against ballots cast. In another scenario, a jurisdiction’s rules may prevent them from counting absentee ballots until after the polls close. Their systems then reject the absentee ballot if the person had also voted in-person during early voting periods or on election day. It’s also difficult to double your vote by submitting two absentee ballots. Election systems will count only one of the ballots-either the first or last received, according to local rules. Not Worth the Risk Citizens convicted of intentionally committing voter fraud by voting more than once in a federal election will suffer the negative lifelong effects of a criminal record listing a third degree felony. Punishment can include $5000 to $10,000 fines, and up to ten years in jail. The practice is high-risk and low reward. In most cases, individuals committing fraud will not sway a national election. Most voters will decide that risking future employment opportunities, their right to vote, firearms ownership, and more because of a felony conviction isn’t worth the try. It’s also a criminal offense to deceive someone about their mail-in ballot, impersonate someone else in order to vote, steal ballots, or forge a signature on a ballot. With ballots transported through the mail, the US Postal Inspection Service may get involved-an agency with a 98% conviction rate. Fears about widespread fraud committed by individual voters are unfounded-especially for national elections. It’s simply impractical. Advanced Mail-In Ballot Processing System Tritek Correct Elect systems draw upon our company’s extensive experience in handling incoming mail. Correct Elect reads all styles of machine-printed and hand-addressed mail ballots at rates up to 15,000 ballots per hour. The systems aid election boards in the handling of absentee ballots and play a part in ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the process. The Tritek equipment compares ballot signatures against signatures of record for automatic or manual signature verification. Our systems process the addresses, signatures, and barcodes while printing the time and date on each ballot. We archive the data in color, gray-scale, or black and white. After capturing data and verifying the signatures, Correct Elect systems sort the ballots to the proper precincts. Washington State, which has been conducting elections by mail since 2005, and many other jurisdictions in the US, rely on Correct Elect to help them run safe, accurate vote by mail elections. This year we’ve been busy augmenting the capabilities of automation-enabled election boards and helping those for whom automated ballot handling is a new venture. We’ve worked with many entities to explain the changes they must implement to be successful in this important election and those to follow. To learn how Correct Elect can make a difference to your organization, contact Tritek Technologies Learn More About Vote by Mail: How to Ensure Complete Ballot Accountability for Elections Why Election Officials Are Expecting a Surge in Mail-In Ballots Addressing Top Concerns with Vote By Mail Automated Processing Top Questions Election Officials Have About Vote by Mail
As states and other jurisdictions seek ways to ensure elections are secure and accurate, they are considering vote-by-mail as an alternative to the cost and perceived risk exposure associated with electronic voting machines and in-person polling places. Four states (Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Hawaii) have legislated all elections be conducted by mail. Twenty-one other states allow vote-by-mail in certain counties or for specific elections. Vote-by-mail has advantages, but how to handle the incoming ballots in a secure and accurate manner, while swiftly processing large volumes is a challenge jurisdictions must address as they consider making such a move. Chosen equipment must be reliable. Machine breakdowns on election day are problematic. The solution must also provide assurances of accuracy to allow lawmakers to switch to a vote-by-mail election process with confidence. Voters casting ballots by mail mark their ballots, place them in secrecy envelopes, and then in outside mailing envelopes. Voters sign affidavits on the outside envelope to confirm their identities and affirm they have legally cast their votes. Then they drop their ballots in the mail before the election deadline. Advantages for Voters, Election Officials, Civic Participation Interest in vote-by-mail is growing. Voters like not having to rearrange their work days or finding transportation or child care on election day. They can avoid standing in long lines to exercise their voting rights. Different from absentee ballots that often require voters meet certain criteria to qualify, vote-by-mail elections are open to all registered voters. Election officials are looking for cost savings. Many states anticipate capital expenses to replace voting machines that lack auditable paper trails. Switching to mail-in ballots, which furnish their own paper trail, may be less expensive than investing in electronic voting machines that will eventually be obsolete. Savings opportunities exist. Colorado trimmed an average of 40% from election administration costs after switching to vote-by-mail. Elections held by mail also affect citizen participation. Some evidence suggests the convenience of vote-by-mail improves voter turnout. In the 2018 mid-term elections, voter turnout in full vote-by-mail states was 10% higher than the national average. Vote-by-mail also seems to boost down-ballot engagement. Local politicians benefit from voters who would otherwise only complete their ballots for national and state-wide races. Some researchers suggest vote-by-mail encourages voters to be more informed. Citizens have time to research issues and candidates after ballots arrive in the mail and before they send them back to be counted. Go With a Proven Solution Jurisdictions contemplating a vote-by-mail solution must address how they will verify and count large volumes of paper ballots when they arrive at election headquarters. Election officials must be sure their solutions include signature validation, duplicate detection, and other quality control and fraud prevention features. Tritek offers custom-designed processing systems for any volume of ballots and any required applications. The systems support seamless integration with all US states’ database software vendors and features processing speeds up to 15,000 per hour for any size or shaped ballots. Additionally, Tritek’s Correct Elect inbound ballot processing equipment can include mobile machines and the ability to fit into any facility’s space. Tritek equipment is fully configurable. Additional features and sort bins can be added at any time. Many states and counties are considering vote-by-mail as an alternative to replacing electronic voting machines. Hacking and intrusion attempts, particularly when their voting machines do not include reliable auditing or paper trails, concern government election officials. With Tritek Correct Elect, jurisdictions can switch to vote-by-mail with confidence they have selected a trustworthy field-tested solution.