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/
Until recent elections, the voting public rarely paid attention to how mail-in ballots were processed, verified, and submitted for tabulation. It just happened. The election results appeared on television way past your kid’s bedtime and that was that. Now, it seems everyone is concerned with this mostly administrative process. Election offices at any level relying on manual tabulation by volunteers will find their procedures questioned. Fortunately, automated ballot processing provides the level of accountability crucial to election officials’ credibility. What is Automated Ballot Processing? Automated ballot processing uses hardware and software technologies to process mailed-in paper ballots instead of manually verifying, sorting, and counting votes. Automated technology is cheaper, faster, and more accurate than manual handling. Automation also improves the voting process by making complex electoral systems easier to use. Automated Ballot Processing Security and Accountability The first question an election official would ask a provider of automated ballot processing technology is: “How do you guarantee security?” The election official will field the same question from voters in their municipality. Constituents demand accountability from their election administrators. Automated processing answers this fundamental question. Ballot integrity is central to the voting process. It begins with scanning each envelope, verifying signatures, and sorting the sealed ballots by precinct. Digital ingestion of the ballot provides an audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. Scans are archived in color, grayscale, or black and white. Automated signature verification reduces the labor costs associated with manual validation and assures regulatory and security compliance. The automated systems detect voters’ signatures with barcodes and verifies them against a database of registered voters. Voter fraud or voting twice is virtually impossible with automated ballot processing. If an individual who has already voted using an absentee ballot shows up at a polling station and attempts to vote again, electronic poll books will display that information. Poll workers will not admit the voter or will require them to complete a provisional ballot. If a second vote slips through, the election database detects two votes from the same voter and only counts the first vote. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission recommends states establish written procedures for the manual duplication of voted ballots to verify that each vote is counted only once. The number of mailed ballot return envelopes must balance with the tabulation. This standard accounting practice assures the vote is correct. Other automated equipment may open the outside envelopes and the carrier envelopes that hold the ballots. The opening and extraction process uses precise milling technology and thickness detection. Automated opening is safer and provides a higher level of security than opening by hand. Workers are considerably less involved, supporting a voter’s privacy. How Election Offices Benefit from Automated Ballot Processing When should city, county, and state election offices consider an automated process? When: It is difficult to recruit qualified administrative staff. This is especially relevant given record low unemployment. There have been irregular vote counts in past elections. Candidates, constituents, and the media routinely question the vote counts. There is a need to reduce the number of election workers. The ballot us too complex to be easily read by workers. The vote count comes in too slowly. With automated ballot processing, election offices can provide a greater level of security for citizens. Trust in the system is escalated. Any thought of improper handling by workers is eliminated. Public perception of the election officials and the office is positive. Voters trust that election workers are custodians of important information and work in the community’s interests. The election office has proven accountability. With mail-in voting, citizens can submit their ballot when it is convenient. However, the surge of mail that election centers receive is often overwhelming. Ballot surges are taxing for municipalities lacking enough employees they can redeploy for processing the envelopes. Analysts predict mail-in balloting to increase. Government employee headcount likely will not. How will city, county, and state governments count tens or hundreds of thousands of ballots? Privacy and security are paramount concerns. Automated equipment and software allow election officials to process thousands of ballots per hour with secure tracking and accountability. Implementation Tritek features patented vote-by-mail technology. Our vote-by-mail solutions are custom designed and built for each municipalities’ specific requirements. This includes floor space consideration, 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, nationwide. Tritek holds the exclusive patent on ballot method and apparatus to provide a full audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. We custom design and build Vote-By-Mail solutions that will fit any facility, ready to process any mail volume and ballot design. View Related Vote By Mail Articles: Is Vote by Mail Safe? How Does Automated Ballot Sorting Work? Addressing the Top Concerns of Vote By Mail Automated Processing
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
Since the 2020 general election, vote-by-mail has been a hot topic. People who previously had nothing to do with mailed communications suddenly became advocates or opponents of the methods counties and other jurisdictions used to receive and count ballots. Much of the information on which people base their opinions comes from sources with little understanding of the technology and security built into absentee ballot processing. Election officials in smaller communities, who had always handled their absentee ballots with manual processes, assume an automated solution must be complicated and expensive. That is not true, but we’ve spoken to many officials that assumed their size excluded them from a modern ballot intake and verification system. This article answers questions commonly on the minds of election officials from small to medium size voting districts and explains how Tritek Technologies’ Correct Elect system can work for them. See a short video about Correct Elect. 1. What About Security? Naturally, everyone is concerned about security. People with political agendas will scrutinize ballot handling in future elections. No one wants to be called on to justify or defend their ballot processing workflow that relies on equipment or software vulnerable to questioning by concerned citizens. Several states have conducted their elections entirely by mail for years, with no more instances of voting irregularities than in areas that rely heavily on in-person polling places. The process is solid and reliable. There simply has not been a problem. In areas where automation technology has been deployed, ballot processing is faster, easier, and more reliable than the manual methods they replaced. Correct Elect vote-by-mail equipment compares the ballot signatures against the signatures of record for automatic or manual signature verification. The system processes addresses, signatures, and barcodes while storing electronic images of each ballot, complete with the processing date and time. After capturing data and verifying the signatures, the vote-by-mail system sorts the ballots to the proper precincts for tallying. Though the process is fast, ballots travel through the high-speed equipment with minimal damage. Correct Elect machines even handle ballot designs featuring security flaps. Tritek equipment processed millions of ballots during the 2020 general election with zero customer complaints about jams or damage. 2. Can’t People Vote Twice, Once by Mail and Again in Person? Cases of double-voting in the United States are extremely rare, probably because the penalties are severe. Voter fraud is a third-degree felony with punishment of up to a $10,000 fine and ten years in prison. Violators will also go to jail if they impersonate someone else, steal ballots, or forge a signature. The impact of an undetected double-vote is miniscule. Candidates and ballot measures rarely win or lose by a single vote in local elections and never in national contests. In short, the reward of voter fraud doesn’t justify the risk, so voters almost never try it. Should a voter, either with malice or by mistake, attempt to vote twice, security built into the automated system will prevent their ballots from being counted more than once. If a voter at a polling station tries to vote again after already voting via an absentee ballot, the electronic poll books, updated with information supplied by Correct Elect, will show their ballot had already been received. Poll workers will not allow them access to a voting booth, or they will direct the voter to complete a provisional ballot. If by some chance a second vote slips through, the election computer system identifies two votes from the same voter and only counts the first one received. 3. Do Ballot Sorting Machines Sit Idle Between Elections? Ballot sorting equipment from Tritek is used to sort regular mail, not just ballots. Many cities and counties find that using the Correct Elect equipment every day allows them to distribute incoming mail to individuals and departments faster and with lower labor costs. Between elections, their investment in mail sorting technology continues to provide value. 4. Isn’t Vote-by-Mail Technology Only for Districts with Big Budgets and Lots of Space? Tritek configures Correct Elect vote-by-mail solutions to fit any size operation. A desktop version is ideal for offices where volume is light, or space is an issue. The systems are also expandable. Customers can add sort bins and new features at any time to account for population growth. Tritek designs the equipment to customer specifications and customizes the equipment to meet the requirements of each election district. 5. How Big is a Ballot Sorting Machine? People see images of large sorting machines such as those used by the US Postal Service and believe they need warehouse-size space to accommodate the equipment. With Tritek multi-pass sorting schemes, ballot processing equipment can sort ballots to the precinct level without consuming lots of floor space. You don’t need a bin for every precinct. This makes it easy for the equipment to fit into your available space. Tritek Correct Elect Vote-by-Mail Equipment Tritek features patented vote-by-mail technology. We custom-design and build each vote-by-mail solution according to each voting district’s requirements. This includes floor space availability, volume fluctuations, and ballot designs. Portable and desktop systems are options for lower volume and limited space environments. Sorting bins are customized based on a voting district’s volume requirements. Tritek’s Correct Elect technology has an exemplary track record at many county election offices. Tritek holds the exclusive patent on the ballot method 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, gray scale, or black and white. Available options depend on server space and local requirements. Signature verification reduces the labor costs of validation and compliance. The Tritek system verifies signatures with barcodes against a database of registered voters. To learn more about the Correct Elect system and how it can work in your environment, contact Tritek Technologies.
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
If COVID 19 was not the most discussed topic for the past two years, then certainly vote-by-mail was. Though not new, the practice of vote-by-mail (VBM) gained widespread attention primarily due to the aggressive presidential race of 2020. Reports in the news, internet sources, and around the water cooler had elements of fact and fiction. But most of these sources did not understand the technology and security built into absentee ballot-processing. Smaller districts, wards, and cities assumed that VBM technology is complex, cost-prohibitive, and designed for large municipalities and states. It is time to step back and objectively consider vote-by-mail solutions for small to medium size voting districts. Is VBM safe? Irrespective of the size and cost of vote-by-mail technology, the first question asked by any jurisdiction is usually about safety and security. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington state have conducted their elections entirely by mail for years. The process is not new. Technology continues to make ballot processing faster, easier, and more reliable. VBM equipment compares the ballot signatures against the signatures of record for automatic or manual signature verification. The system processes addresses, signatures, and barcodes while storing electronic images of each ballot, complete with the processing date and time. After capturing data and verifying the signatures, the VBM system sorts the ballots to the proper precincts for tallying. Handling paper ballots with high-speed equipment presents minimal damage risk. The machines are built to transport ballots safely through the machine. Even ballot designs featuring security flaps process flawlessly. Millions of ballots were processed by Tritek equipment during the 2020 general election with no complaints about jams or damage. What about voter fraud or someone voting twice? The United States Postal Inspection Service’s jurisdiction covers "crimes that may adversely affect or fraudulently use the U.S. Mail, the postal system, or postal employees." With roots going back to the late 18th century, the USPIS is the country’s oldest continually operating federal law enforcement agency. The Inspection Service is well-equipped to regulate vote-by-mail. Voting more than once in a federal election is a third-degree felony. Punishment includes up to a $10,000 fine and ten years in prison. You will also go to jail if you impersonate someone else, steal ballots, or forge a signature. The US Postal Inspection Service is very efficient at catching and punishing anyone using the mail to commit fraud. 98% of criminals charged by the USPIS are convicted. When a voter who has already voted via absentee shows up at a polling station and tries to vote again, electronic poll books will display that information. The voter is not admitted 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. VBM technology is a significant investment to only use every other year. What are the other uses for a vote-by-mail system? Ballot sorting machines are used to sort regular mail, not just ballots. The city, county, or ward’s inbound mail that once was manually sorted can be automated. Individuals and departments receive their mail earlier in the day because the automated process is faster. County employees take action on that mail sooner. Sorting technology processes at speeds up to 15,000 pieces per hour. Manual sorting labor is re-deployed to other work. The equipment is not idle between elections. Isn’t vote-by-mail technology only for state governments or very populous voting districts with big budgets and lots of space? Smaller districts often handle absentee ballots manually in the belief that vote-by-mail equipment is only for large voting operations, but VBM solutions are configured to fit any size operation. A desktop version is ideal for offices where volume is light, budgets are tight, and space availability is an issue. For growing communities, sort bins and new features can be added at any time. The county need not “re-buy” a new system simply because new voters have moved in. The equipment is designed to customer specifications and customized to meet the requirements of each election district. Our county has hundreds of precincts. How big will a ballot sorting machine be? Counties do not need a bin for every precinct. With multi-pass sorting schemes, ballot processing equipment can sort down to the precinct level. VBM technology providers help counties and other voting districts set up sorting schemes. Tritek ‘Correct Elect’ Vote-by-Mail Equipment Tritek features patented Vote-By-Mail technology. Each Vote-By-Mail Solution is custom designed and built for each voting district’s requirements. This includes floor space availability, volume fluctuations, and ballot designs. Portable and desktop systems are options for lower volume and limited space environments. Sorting bins are customized based on a voting district’s volume requirements. Tritek’s Correct Elect technology has an exemplary track record at many county election offices. Tritek holds the exclusive patent on ballot method and apparatus. The VBM 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. Available options depend on available server space and local requirements. Signature verification reduces the labor costs of validation and compliance. Signatures detected with barcodes are verified by a database of registered voters. More Vote by Mail Resources: Top 5 Questions Election Officials Ask About Vote by Mail How Does Automated Ballot Processing/Sorting Work? How to Ensure Complete Ballot Accountability for Elections
Despite some voters and government officials’ questions about whether vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election was secure and efficient, the result was overwhelmingly positive. This should come as no surprise to voters perennially enrolled in the absentee voting program. Counties and other districts have been administering successful vote-by-mail programs for years. The difference between the 2020 election and the next election is an expected increase in mail-in ballot volume and additional security. Analysts expect after having experienced mail-in voting, more voters will choose this method in the future. Several state legislatures will change processes in coming years to make them more efficient and avoid any element of mistrust. Ballot Design Local governments can use several templates to design their ballots and envelopes. However, the experts encourage them to observe some general best practices: Follow USPS requirements for size, address location, and barcode placement Follow state rules and guidelines for language Coordinate with vendors or in-house print facilities well in advance Emphasize headings to set the context. What is most important? Use simple language Break dense legal information into bullet points Signature Verification Many states compare the signature on the absentee ballot envelope to a signature in the voter registration file. Processing a mail ballot is time-consuming and can involve both automated and manual steps. The technology used is an automated signature verification application. A camera captures the voter’s signature from the ballot return envelope as it is sorted. An automated system compares the signature to the reference image from the voter registration database. In a procedure used by many jurisdictions, automated systems forward signatures with low matching scores to human inspectors for further evaluation. These pre-checks are done with the envelope closed. Workers cannot tell by looking at the envelope if the voter is Republican, Democrat, or Independent. No one will see the voter’s ballot during the verification process. USPS Tracking While not required, the Postal Service recommends using the Intelligent Mail barcodes on ballot envelopes so they can take advantage of the Informed Visibility® Mail Tracking and Reporting (IV®-MTR) service. The IV-MTR application provides information about when and where the Postal Service sorts a mail piece on mail-processing equipment. The IV-MTR application allows you to track mail pieces as they travel through the mail stream to determine status by individual mail piece. The system records when and where the USPS scans a mail piece or container. Election officials can track mail pieces via Customer Registration ID (CRID), Mailer ID (MID), and mail piece identification numbers. The USPS provides tracking results as a single lookup or in a data stream. Absentee ballots can be tracked as they are mailed to voters. Completed ballots can also be tracked as voters return them via the US Postal Service. Some jurisdictions make the IV-MTR data available to voters so they can track their own ballots after they have mailed them. Counting and Reporting States have different processes for counting votes. Those with significant rural populations have voted by mail for years. Typically, the elections office sends an absentee ballot to every active registered voter that requests one. The voter mails the ballot back through the Postal Service, drops it in a drop box, or leaves it at a city office in person on election day. After signature verification, election workers remove and unfold the ballots. Clerks examine them looking for tears, tape, or any substance that might clog the ballot-counting machines. A scanner reads the ballots and converts them from into data used for tabulation. Sorting and Signature Capture Technology Implementation of an automated vote-by-mail system requires an investment. States need up-to-date addresses, tracking systems, and verification methods. However, studies have found that voting by mail is far cheaper than in-person alternatives. Tritek ‘Correct Elect’ Vote-by-Mail Equipment Tritek features patented Vote-By-Mail technology. Every Tritek Correct Elect solution is custom designed and built for each election entity’s specific requirements. This includes floor space constraints, 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 the system uses to provide a full audit trail, ballot process management, and status reporting. Our system saves ballot scans in color, grayscale, or black and white depending on server space and local requirements. Signature verification reduces labor costs and improves regulatory and security compliance. View the Correct Elect Government Resources The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has an extensive website with a wealth of resources and dozens of white papers to help election officials administer vote-by-mail. The Inspector-General conducts audits, evaluations, and assessments of EAC programs and operations. Related Vote by Mail Resources: How Does Automated Ballot Processing Work? Vote by Mail: A Special Flavor of Inbound Mail Processing How to Improve Processing Speed for Vote By Mail Envelopes Election Officials Are Expecting a Surge in Vote-By-Mail
Mail services within government entities have always been labor-intensive operations with manual sorting, stacking, and traying of both inbound and outbound mail. Because of the change in how states run elections, this manual work has never been more important. Unfortunately, besides causing a surge in mail volume, COVID-19 also impacted mailroom staffing. Governments had to handle the work while some of their experienced employees were sick at home. Finances were strained as well, as local governments dealt with the combination of COVID-related expenses and lower tax revenue because of commerce shut-downs. Some government entities were better prepared than others. Local, state, and county governments that embraced automated mail sorting and processing technology reduced the impact of fewer employees working fewer hours. Automation provided a way for state and local governments to keep up with the demand for mail services and deal with budget cuts and a labor shortage. Other labor-dependent government mail operations struggled. Mail Services Needs a Digital Workflow Digital workflows have the potential to reduce costs, often while boosting customer satisfaction. Private businesses adapt quicker than government agencies and have revolutionized their workflows with digital automation. Though governments have made progress in moving some repetitive, labor-intensive functions to online services, opportunities to digitize processes still exist. Government workers spend more time providing personal customer service than their private industry counterparts, driving up labor costs. A Harvard Business Review study estimated that it costs between $7 and $13 for every live service a government provides. Digitization and automated transactions could yield vast savings. Digital Mail Delivery How do remote government workers, whether working from home or in dispersed agencies, receive mail-in applications, correspondence, and the myriad of daily inbound government forms that need processing? The answer is digital mail delivery. In facilities that have adopted a digital workflow, digital mail technology scans the mail and archives the images on secure servers. Pre-defined business rules determine what happens to each mailpiece. It could be that the mail center opens and scans all First-Class Mail, while they set Marketing Mail aside for later physical delivery. Other mail, identifiable by the address block or other envelope markings, could be automatically routed to specialized departments for processing. The address on the mailpiece can determine the disposition of many items. In other cases, the scanning and sorting software will look up the physical location of an employee’s workspace by matching the addressee’s name printed on the envelope to an organization database. Mail for some departments may be held awaiting further instructions or packaged for courier delivery. The business rules can define many scenarios, depending on the needs of the company. Lack of Postal Knowledge Workers The talent pool of workers in the paper, print, and production mail industries has declined for years, and opportunities for industry training, education, and certification have recently dwindled. The premiere mailing industry event, the National Postal Forum, was reduced to a virtual presence for the second consecutive year because of COVID-19 concerns. Exacerbating the situation, local Postal Customer Council events, where mail training is administered, also transformed into virtual affairs. The pandemic has strongly curtailed postal training in 2020 and 2021. Grooming new unskilled employees for jobs in the mailroom has become a challenge. Automated mail sorting and processing technology reduces the level of postal knowledge required to manage inbound and outbound mail. With automation, more mail center jobs can be easily shared among available employees or assigned to temporary workers when a shortage of permanent mail center staff occurs. Vote by Mail Voter preference surveys show that vote-by-mail is here to stay. The job of accepting, validating, sorting, and counting completed ballots as they are returned will continue to be a task governments must tackle. Speed, security, and accuracy are absolutes in election mail. Fortunately, vote-by-mail technology is scalable for larger state governments as well as city and state mail volumes. Systems like Tritek’s Correct Elect solution automatically monitor the ballot acceptance process. The key to a successful vote-by-mail program for governments with labor and budget constraints is deploying automated mail center technology. Compared to human reading, sorting, and tabulating, automation is 10 to 20 times faster. Wake Up Call The COVID-19 crisis had devastating consequences for state, county, and local governments. Service cutbacks, labor reductions, and a shrinking tax base all contributed to the issues. Local governments may receive some funding from Congress but will still look for ways to recover from the pandemic’s effects. In addition, the government workforce is not what it once was. The government has often been slow to embrace technology, especially in the mail center. Now they have little choice. An environment with fewer knowledge workers and high vote-by-mail ballot volumes demands requires a new solution. Digital technology in the mail center provides an answer for the cash-strapped state, county, and local governments.
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