Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

Benefits of the Vote Center Model

Vote Centers afford voters the convenience of appearing at any Vote Center in the county to cast a ballot that contains every race and issue on which he/she is entitled to vote. Vote Centers enable election officials to reduce the number of polling places from the traditional precinct sites to a smaller, more manageable number of sites.

Larimer County, Colorado, which pioneered the Vote Center Model, has successfully conducted three major elections using Vote Centers: the 2003 Coordinated Election pilot and the 2004 Primary and General Elections. Vote Centers in Larimer County are geographically positioned throughout the county in both heavily populated urban cities and outlying rural towns. In urban areas, they are positioned near heavy traffic areas, larger residential areas, major employers and city bus routes. In rural areas, they are positioned at recognizable community landmark locations, often the same locations as the prior precinct polling places.

Vote Centers significantly reduce the number of election workers needed and enables the county to select Election Day personnel who demonstrate the skills necessary to run a modern polling place. An electronic poll book is used, necessitating the active recruitment of workers with computer skills. A student judge program is used pulling top students from the local high schools to work as election workers on Election Day. These changes in election worker profile brought the average age of an election worker from 74 to 44 years old.

Larimer County accommodated a high voter turnout of 94.6% of the active registered voters in the 2004 General Election with ease and efficiency. Approximately one-third of the voters voted by mail-in ballot, one-third at early voting, and one-third at Vote Centers. Over 52,000 persons cast their ballot at a Vote Center on Election Day. A division of labor within the Vote Center made it easy for election workers to learn details of election law as it applies to procedures required to implement voter processing on Election Day. This allowed for faster processing of each voter such that during peak voting hours the average voter finished voting within 15 to 20 minutes of arriving at a Vote Center.

Control is centralized to the elections main office rather than dispersed to the individual polling places. Election workers have a direct line to elections staff so that questions and concerns are addressed immediately. A secure, connected electronic poll book gives persons credit for voting in real time, preventing any voter from voting twice in an election. Political parties and other interested persons can receive from the elections office up to the minute lists of those who have voted, increasing the efficiency of poll watcher efforts.

Summarized below are additional benefits of the Vote Center Model:

  • Vote Centers provide easier and less costly compliance with accessibility requirements under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and
    the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Larger, newer facilities that are already ADA compliant are used in most instances.
  • Provisional ballot concerns are addressed more effectively. All ballot styles are available at each Vote Center allowing eligible voters to cast a correct ballot at any Vote Center. There is no wrong place to vote!
  • Administration is more efficient than for a precinct polling place model.
  • There are cost savings in many areas including requiring fewer election workers and fewer election supplies.
  • Poll worker recruitment focuses on experienced and more qualified personnel, leading to more efficient and accurate elections.
  • Political parties and candidates need fewer volunteers for poll watching.
  • Vote Centers work well with paper ballots and are ideal with electronic equipment which can contain all ballot styles and still provide precinct specific reporting.
  • Vote Centers provide additional convenience for voters, which fosters increased voter turnout.

The future of Vote Centers looks bright given their success in Larimer County. Illinois, Florida, Texas, Michigan and North Carolina have taken serious measures towards adopting the Vote Center Model.

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.