On Tuesday, Bernalillo County implemented a new voting system with great success. Vote centers were utilized in lieu of precinct-specific voting sites and, while a few issues arose throughout the course of the day, the vote center model proved successful.
I’d like to thank the voters of our community for voting in record numbers and for the scores of positive comments my staff and I have received about the new system.
Prior to implementation, my office worked with a variety of stakeholders to create a model based on population, proximity and past and projected future turnout to establish an adequate number and location of the centers. By utilizing a “ballot on demand system,” we had the flexibility to print anyone’s ballot at any location. We used extensive prior election data to establish the number of systems at each site.
Due to the approximately $1 million in savings generated from switching to vote centers, we were also able to heavily invest in voter education to ensure voters knew about the change.
Overall, my staff and I felt the model functioned extremely well.
Bernalillo County experienced about 25,000 more in-person voters in 2012 than it did in the record-breaking year of 2008. Unlike 2008, voters experienced almost no wait in early voting lines during the two weeks leading up to Election Day.
On Election Day, for the first time ever, voters were given a choice of where to cast their ballot, and they had 69 options at their disposal. Voters had a variety of tools at their disposal to find a vote center and had full information about the vote center’s location, parking information, hours of operation, etc., as well as advance notice about the wait time at each location.
The county even offered a free “wait time” app for smartphones so that voters could look this information up “on the go.”
Perhaps the greatest value of the vote center system is in my office’s ability to effectively administer the election process both during early voting and on Election Day.
With real-time data coming through the central voter database, we were able to know at any given point in time how many voters were casting ballots, what the wait times were at each location and whether any locations were experiencing problems with their ballot-on-demand systems.
Fewer sites meant hiring fewer people. We were able to pre-screen individuals and our training became targeted, more detailed and more hands-on.
From an election administration perspective, vote centers gave my staff and me the ability to more effectively implement this election than in the past. As a result, this move forward has created a new level of election integrity and our office is much more efficient.
We could not have effectively implemented vote centers in Bernalillo County without the partnership forged with Albuquerque Public Schools and the University of New Mexico. Both administrations worked closely with my staff and me and administrators and students graciously endured the lack of space while we set up, conducted the election, and removed our equipment and supplies in the days after the election.
Overall, the success of the vote center system in Bernalillo County was a collective effort and is due to extensive support from within our community, including: the state Legislature, the Bernalillo County Commission and county staff, the political parties and voting advocates, our vendors and vote center property owners, APS, UNM, the many wonderful staff in my office and, most importantly, the voters of Bernalillo County for taking part in our democracy.