A GIS-Centric Elections Management Process Brings Peace of Mind to King County, Washington
The King County Department of Elections conducts all elections by paper ballot, which a voter either mails or deposits into one of nearly 70 drop boxes that are distributed throughout the county. For its secure tracking of drop-box collections, Elections transitioned in spring 2019 to an all-digital workflow using mostly Esri GIS products. The all-digital aspect is notable in part because this is not yet common practice among elections agencies.
The tracking process starts with dispatchers assigning work orders to more than 20 teams of drivers using the ArcGIS Workforce app. The work orders for the teams are bulk uploaded from a CSV (comma-separated values) file every morning during an election period. The drivers then follow designated routes to collect boxes of ballots, with each work order due to be completed by a specified time. Work orders also can be created manually by dispatchers as needed.
The Workforce process is integrated with ArcGIS Survey123, which enables data input by the driver teams. For each work order, the driver team enters information into a survey form using the Survey123 app. The work orders are configured to open different survey forms depending on various election circumstances and the nature of the particular work order, such as the following:
- The opening voting day of the election period
- Daily pickups during the election period
- Daily mailed-ballot pickup
- Election night (when the voting deadline occurs)
- Postelection inspection (in which a final check for ballots occurs, and a visual and text record is made of any maintenance issues that need to be addressed)
In addition, each survey form has built-in validation to decrease user errors. Bar code reading is enabled so that the teams do not have to type "ballot drop box" and transport bin serial numbers, further reducing opportunities for errors. Finally, electronic signatures from the drivers are required before the survey form can be submitted.
Election office staff employ ArcGIS Dashboards for viewing and monitoring the status of assignments, using real-time data for each driver team. These dashboards provide a comprehensive, live view of how the ballot collection is progressing. Charts, gauges, and maps deliver powerful visualizations and an approximate count of the ballots collected. Location tracking helps show where each team is at a given time.
A simple application was configured with Esri's ArcGIS Web AppBuilder Developer Edition to enable Elections staff to examine all the spatial datasets for the project in a familiar web map environment.
This transition to an all-digital workflow relied on a series of Esri products, which fits into the overall commitment of King County GIS to the Esri platform. For future elections, the county expects to add one more Esri product to the workflow, ArcGIS Navigator, to route drivers through multiple locations in an optimal manner.
"The Elections Drop Box project has been very well received by our client," says Harkeerat Kang, GIS Specialist, Master. "Elections especially likes the real-time tracking capability and workflow efficiency. Being able to track and locate driver teams throughout the day and adjust assignments as conditions change is a major enhancement to their process. The interactive dashboards provide another dimension and really help everyone function as a cohesive team."
After a period of testing and review in early 2019, the all-digital tracking process was implemented for the April 2019 special election and the August primary election. The advantages over the previous paper-based tracking system are numerous. First, from an archiving standpoint, digital forms and signatures mean that hard-copy forms no longer fill filing cabinets. Real-time tracking of the ballot-collections process helps Elections dispatchers and managers make timely decisions. And finally, data entry error rates have been reduced. In short, the new, paper-free tracking process has helped King County Elections carry out a key part of its mission, ballot drop box collections, more efficiently. To read more on how King County is leveraging GIS to build and maintain a smart community, visit gisandyou.org.
For more information on how to replicate King County's election management workflow, visit go.esri.com/kingcounty-elections.
The Workforce/Survey123 app has saved King County Elections an incredible amount of time and money as our ballot drop box program has grown. With now nearly 70 locations to get to every day, the app makes it possible to nimbly coordinate our large team of drivers and ensure that ballots get back to us on time, every time.