Members seek vendors to improve election reporting

The Erie County Board of Elections is looking to give election night reporting a makeover.

The board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to seek vendors who could implement a more advanced earnings reporting platform in Erie County.

According to the provider, the online platform would display election results with greater clarity and context, with constituency reports, clickable city maps, and color-coded charts and tables.

Erie County Supervisor of Elections Tonia Fernandez said the goal was to give the public a more user-friendly way to view election results, as opposed to the standard “list format” the county currently uses.

“It’s really to help Erie County voters better understand our election results and give them more perspective,” she said in an interview with the Erie Times-News.

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For years, Erie County election officials have relied on the county’s IT department — specifically IT specialist Richard Krone — to upload results to the election website.

Since Krone’s resignation in December, Fernandez has said now is the time to consider an improvement.

“It’s not that we couldn’t find another IT specialist to help us,” she said. “But it was an opportunity for us to improve the appearance of our results.”

Fernandez pointed to Allegheny County, which already uses a provider for election reporting. When the public visits the Allegheny County Electoral Division websiteand clicks on the election results, they are redirected to a platform that displays the results with easy-to-read visual aids and detailed constituency reports.

Fernandez said she was considering the same vendor for Erie County.

“It will be a technological breakthrough for us,” she said.

Fernandez added that it is still unclear how the transfer of the results from the elections office to the seller to publication will take place.

She said one possibility is for the vendor to receive election results, populate their website, and provide a link to it on the county election website.

Another possibility is that the vendor simply sells its platform to the county, in which case the county’s IT department would enter the results internally.

The county council approved $20,000 in earmarked funds in the 2022 budget for election reporting, according to acting county clerk Nicole Inan.

The electoral committee agreed on Tuesday to explore potential suppliers.

“With all the election changes and rancor, the council’s main concern is the results,” said election committee chair Mary Rennie. “Effectiveness, efficiency, accuracy, accessibility – it’s more important than ever. Voters demand it, and rightly so. The investment is worth it.”

other actions

The election committee unanimously approved two other resolutions to seek providers of electronic poll book technology and ballot paper supplies.

Electronic poll books would provide a database for poll workers to access all voter information in the county and allow them to let voters know if they are voting in the right place or if they have already voted.

Inan said poll books, which are similar to iPad-like tablets, would take a “significant toll” on election officials on Election Day as the technology would likely resolve confusion before it reached the polling station.

“That would be our hope. (Election workers and voters) would use the technology in front of them instead of filling our phone,” she said.

The board also voted to explore other vendors to print the ballots, given the county’s current vendor, Gohrs print in the Northeast, has not confirmed its ability to secure the paper.

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“It’s a huge concern for us,” Inan said. “It’s a small company and they don’t have as much clout in that regard, so we’re a bit concerned about their ability to meet our needs.”

Fernandez said she is looking for local vendors who are experienced in elections and who can provide voters with a database to show the status of their ballots in the printing and delivery process.

Rennie said the switch to reliable vendors and better technology is an attempt to eliminate any chaos or confusion that may arise on future election nights, especially at a time when election integrity has become increasingly important.

“We have to err on the side of efficiency, efficiency and accuracy and eliminate any confusion because I think that’s the enemy right now in the electoral process,” Rennie said. “We need to be sure – and the voter needs to be sure – that the proper care has been taken.”

AJ Rao can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ETNRao.

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