Mail-in voting was first introduced in the United States to encourage soldiers to cast their ballots in the Civil War and has grown over the years with the help of legislative changes such as the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act as well as individual state’s implementations of entirely vote-by-mail elections and no-excuse absentee voting laws.1 Since 1992, when just over 90% of voters cast their ballots on Election Day, the share of voters casting their ballots early or by mail has steadily grown.1 In 2022, half of all voters – 49.8% - voted early in the midterm elections, with 31.8% casting a ballot by mail.2 While the percentage of voters casting a ballot by mail has dropped from the extraordinarily high 43% who did so in 2020, it is clear that voters are showing a continued interest in casting their ballots by mail. With more voters expected to turn out in the 2024 primaries and General Election than in the recent midterms, local election officials are already planning ahead for their elections next year. For jurisdictions expecting a high volume of mail-in ballots, advance planning is one of the most important steps in being prepared for scaling up absentee tabulation processes.
While many Americans may view election day as a single-day event, election officials know that months of work and preparation go into running a successful election – and sometimes there are back-to-back elections that must be prepared for simultaneously. When one election draws increased attention like a Presidential Election, they also know that their work is going to be in the spotlight as well. That’s why beginning conversations with vendors and government partners as early as possible can help jurisdictions begin their planning process early and ensure their needs are being communicated and met.
With the increased need for mail-in ballots, envelopes, and other printed materials, having open lines of communication and placing early orders with ballot printers and paper suppliers can help avoid last minute worries about supplies. Mail houses and other print vendors may also offer helpful services for address correction to reduce the number of returned envelopes sent out. In addition to printers, speaking with local and regional partners at the postal service in advance of the election can also keep them informed of planned shipments and higher volumes of mail going to and from the office so that they can be prepared. The local postal service might also be able to offer information on ballot tracking for election officials and voters or be willing to offer assistance getting final batches of ballots to the elections office in time to be counted. Having a positive, working relationship with local mail carriers and postal service representatives can directly benefit election officials as they work to run a successful election.
Voting is the cornerstone of democracy, and there is a uniquely rewarding feeling that voters get when they take part in the democratic process by casting their ballot. However, many voters aren’t always aware of the behind-the-scenes processes and rules that govern elections, particularly if they haven’t voted recently, just registered, or are voting for the first time under new election laws or procedures. That is why it is so crucial to educate voters before they head to the polls, both for voters and for election officials.
Since the 2020 election, several states have passed new laws around voting and voting by mail in particular, which makes the upcoming election an important opportunity to remind voters of any new rules or changes that might impact their voting experience. Voter education can come in a number of forms ranging from writing a letter to the editor in the local paper to regular social media posts to setting up a booth at a local event where voters are likely to go. One method of voter education that can also assist with voter address list maintenance is to send out a postcard ahead of the election to eligible voters with information about any new updates and reminders of important election dates. Encouraging voters to proactively check their voter registration information before the election can ensure that voters are able to successfully receive and cast their ballots.
Check Your Systems
Before the first ballots are tabulated, election officials are performing rigorous testing to ensure the accuracy of their systems. Ensuring that your testing encompasses the specific pieces of your absentee tabulation process can go a long way in helping things run smoothly during and after the election. Taking time to conduct voter address list maintenance will offer potential cost savings on mailings that have to be returned or remailed. Performing logic and accuracy testing on absentee or central scanning tabulation equipment using pre-printed test ballots will ensure that any errors or issues with the ballots or programming is addressed prior to Election Day. Election officials can also reach out to their tabulation vendor to see if they are eligible for software upgrades that could provide faster or more efficient tabulation. Jurisdictions can also consider implementing ballot tracking technology through the local postal service, their electronic poll book vendor, or another reputable vendor to help offer insights into the mailing process for staff and voters.
Know Your Resources
Running a successful election is not a one-person job – it takes a team of dedicated individuals from election administrators to technicians to warehouse teams to poll workers and every role in-between. While the size of a team running an election can vary, it is important that election officials at every role know where they can turn to get support and learn more about resources available to them. At the local and state level, each state has organizations of municipal or county clerks or election administrators where officials can meet and share resources and ideas. Often these groups host trainings, conferences, and other events to share knowledge. There are also national organizations of election officials that offer similar conferences, trainings, or web resources that jurisdictions can pull from to help run a successful election. Having relationships at the state level with members of the office that oversee election administration in each state can be beneficial to election officials, as well as having positive working relationships with the individual customer success representatives from technology vendors. By forming connections and sharing resources, election officials can stretch budgets and turn to fellow administrators to answer questions or offer ideas and solutions. Conducting a successful election is a team effort, and finding support and empowerment goes a long way toward feeling confident.
ABOUT CLEAR BALLOT
As the leader in election innovation, Clear Ballot has introduced a new class of tools and a modern approach to voting, enabling unprecedented speed, accuracy, and transparency that officials and the voting public have sought for decades. Clear Ballot entered the election industry with its first product in 2012, disrupting the industry with the nation’s first independent, automated audit, and four years later developed a complete voting system which is now the fastest growing voting system in the industry. Clear Ballot’s election technology is currently used in thirteen states, serving more than 40 million registered voters.