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The Precinct Atlas

National Association of Counties - 2011 - NACo Achievement Award

Summary

Immediately following the 2008 election, the County began exploring the possibility of purchasing or developing an electronic pollbook program. The finished product is not used for counting votes, but is instead used to process voters correctly and efficiently. The software navigates the dense network of election laws by organizing and prioritizing them, while presenting step-by-step instructions or simple questions in everyday language to the precinct officers.

Description

In the 2008 presidential election, Iowa implemented Election Day voter registration (E-D registration). The election set record turnouts across the state and was the first true test of this new program. In combination with the incredible voter-turnouts, the State faced a multitude of issues stemming from difficulties associated with trying to integrate the E-D Registration requirements with existing laws. Throughout the State, one of the results of the precinct officials being tasked with new E-D registration duties was that the officials had mistakenly filled out forms incorrectly or incompletely, filled out the wrong forms, or failed to obtain required signatures. In addition, many staff unnecessarily required many voters to cast provisional ballots or go through extensive E-D registration procedures, when a simple change-of-address or proof of identity was all that was required for a particular voter.

Immediately following the 2008 election, the County began exploring the possibility of purchasing or developing an electronic pollbook program. After meeting with several vendors and seeing demonstrations for three electronic programs, the County opted to pursue the development of an in-house software program. The deficiency of the vendors’ programs was that they did not have the Iowa-specific functionality that a customized, in-house program could provide. The finished product is not used for counting votes, but is instead used to process voters correctly and efficiently. The software navigates the dense network of election laws by organizing and prioritizing them, while presenting step-by-step instructions or simple questions in everyday language to the precinct officers.

Cerro Gordo County’s total investment in the program is $264,000. The County sold a license to distribute the program to the Iowa Secretary of State for $30,000, which covered the software programmers’ time for the initial program development, as well as the estimated development of a similar software program for use in absentee voting. Since it was first used in a special election in Cerro Gordo County in February 2009, the Precinct Atlas has been used in forty-eight Iowa counties, bearing such results as correct and efficient processing of voters, consistent application of election laws, virtually error-free election forms, and increased confidence of precinct officials in administering election precinct duties. The cost to other Iowa counties until now has been zero, but that may change with a new secretary of state. The other counties’ out-of-pocket costs include laptop computers, label printers, and ancillary equipment; an estimate of these costs for most Iowa precincts is a mere $1,300. Soft costs include training for precinct election officials as well.

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Tags: Government and Politics, Government Performance and Management, Technology





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