RECORD VOTER TURNOUT REQUIRES MORE STAFF BUT SPACE LIMITED TO SAFELY WORK BECAUSE OF COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS
“We couldn’t risk not having enough room for staff to process our ballots in a timely manner. Automating ballot extraction really worked well.”
Director of Multnomah County Elections
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BALLOT ENVELOPES OPENED
AVERAGE NUMBER OF BALLOTS PROCESSED PER STAFF MEMBER PER HOUR
DECREASE IN NUMBER OF STAFF NEEDED
In 2000, Oregon passed a bill to make voting exclusively by mail. For 22 years, Multnomah County, home to Portland, has successfully processed all of its ballots on a timely basis. State law allows Oregon counties to open and scan ballots seven days prior to Election Day. November general elections tend to have the most volume, and Multnomah voting officials recognized that voter turnout would be high. What was not anticipated was the effect of COVID-19. In the past, Multnomah County handled the demands of ballot envelope opening by increasing staff. However, in this election year, Multnomah lacked adequate space to accommodate the additional staff and efficiently process ballots due to social distancing requirements.
It was no longer possible to have the normal 120 workers per shift. During the May primary, Multnomah officials learned they could only use 75 workers per shift to perform ballot opening due to COVID-19 restrictions. Because there was only a 50% turnout for the May primary, the workload was manageable, but November was going to be a different story. Multnomah County’s voter rolls have been growing steadily and record-high turnout was expected. These predictions proved to be correct. Turnout was at 82%, resulting in 465K ballots that needed to be extracted. In previous elections, each worker processed approximately 200 ballots per hour.
GROWING POPULATION MEANT MORE VOTERS IN THE NOVEMBER ELECTION
EXTRACTING MORE BALLOTS FROM ENVELOPES WITH LESS PEOPLE PER SHIFT
KEEPING STAFF SAFE DUE TO PANDEMIC GUIDELINES
Multnomah County now has the tools it needs to deliver an efficient voting process with fewer workers no matter how large the county continues to grow.
“THE INTEGRITY OF THE BALLOT IS IMPORTANT. THE EXTRACTOR PROVIDED ANOTHER LAYER OF VOTER SECRECY WE DIDN’T EXPECT.”
-Tim ScottDirector of Multnomah County Elections