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.
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
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