ES&S equipment successfully supports pandemic demands:
Voters in the swing state of Pennsylvania, including those voting by mail, can depend on a robust, resilient and reliable voting system for years to come.
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s overwhelming presence, election officials reported historic levels of in-person and voting by mail in both the 2020 Primary and General elections. As reported by the New York Times on November 12, 2020, approximately 39% of registered voters in the U.S. voted by mail in the 2020 General election1, 2, up from 24% of registered voters in the 2016 General election3.
To address these demands, jurisdictions across the country rapidly expanded and adjusted operations. The key to Cambria County, Pennsylvania’s success? The versatility and adaptability of ES&S voting systems, especially the DS200 Precinct Scanner and Tabulator and the DS450 High-Throughput Scanner and Tabulator.
In May 2019, Cambria County purchased a new voting system that met their needs. But their needs quickly changed when COVID-19 reached pandemic proportions.
As the Pennsylvania Primary approached in June 2020 amid swelling anxiety surrounding public health and safety during elections, Cambria County voters returned an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots. On October 31, 2019, Pennsylvania added a new, no-excuse-needed means to vote using a mail-in ballot. Prior to this, voting by mail in Pennsylvania was only allowed for qualified absentee voters.4
|2019 General||2020 Primary||2020 General|
|Election Day Ballots||≤33,489||17,951||52,448|
|Total Ballots Cast||33,839||29,845||70,156|
|Unofficial Results Reported on Election Day||11 p.m.||11 p.m.||11:30 p.m.|
Without fail, Cambria County’s voting system successfully supported the first expanded mail ballot election. The rapid, reliable ballot processing speed provided by ES&S equipment supported an even greater mail ballot surge for the November 2020 general election. By mid-day on Election Day, approximately 10,000 ballots had already been processed.
Keys to Success
Timely processing of the unprecedented quantity of mail-in ballots also required adjustments in staffing, processes and procedures. Crowl assembled a ballot prep team. Members watched ES&S’ ballot prep video before getting started on Election Day, “so they had an idea of what to do,” she said. “It worked well.”
Five teams of two people opened and flattened mail-in ballots. Another ballot prep team member took prepped ballots to a team member who scanned them. They followed best practices for ballot preparation, including backfolding ballots along existing creases and separating ballots that were seriously soiled or torn.
“The fact that they were able to timely open, prep and scan all mail-in ballots for their first expanded mail ballot election far exceeded the expectations of anyone there,” said Matt Lewandoski, ES&S certified trainer, who provided site support to Cambria County during the system’s second use. “The way the process was set up was critical. This shows what great preparation can do for an increase in mail-in ballots. The amount of prep and forethought was key to their success.”
The customer service Cambria received also was critical to success.
She said ES&S has always been responsive.
“Anything I’ve ever asked of them, they have done,” Crowl said. “Anytime I have a question or need assistance, someone is there to help us. I’ve never had a bad experience. Someone always gets back to you. You can get any product but if you don’t have service and support teams behind you then it doesn’t matter.”
- “Record-Setting Turnout: Tracking Early Voting in the 2020 Election,” The New York Times, last modified November 12, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/elections/early-voting-results.html
- “President-Elect Joe Biden Hits 80 Million Votes In Year Of Record Turnout”, NPR, last modified November 25, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/11/25/937248659/president-elect-biden-hits-80-million-votes-in-year-of-record-turnout
- “2016 Election Administration Voting Survey”, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, last updated June 2017, https://www.eac.gov/research-and-data/2016-election-administration-voting-survey
- “2019 Act 77, Pennsylvania Election Code – Omnibus Amendments,” Pennsylvania General Assembly, last updated October 31, 2019, https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/li/uconsCheck.cfm?yr=2019&sessInd=0&act=77