How Does Automated Ballot Processing Work?

Automation graphic - Gears
Written by Tritek Blog on August 23, 2022 in General

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.