Processing Vote-by-Mail Ballots

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think about a lot of things. Going forward, working from home, distance learning, telemedicine, and virtual conferences are all likely to be more prevalent now that social distancing has forced us to revise some of our traditional habits. The latest public health hazard might also permanently affect the way we run elections.

Plenty of states and counties in the US are actively looking into vote-by-mail as a safer way to allow citizens to cast their votes. These entities are interested in logistics, costs, and economies of holding at least some of their elections via paper ballots transported through the mail.

As mail-in ballot use rises, most jurisdictions won’t want to handle vote-by-mail ballot distribution in-house. They will use outsource print and mail service providers to create the ballots and get these critical documents into the hands of voters according to deadlines prescribed by election laws.

Absentee Ballots

Public health concerns are triggering a surge in absentee ballot requests. In response, some states have relaxed their rules requiring voters to meet certain conditions to qualify for absentee ballots, or are encouraging citizens to request ballots for upcoming elections. Some states, such as New York, considered proactively sending absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. More voters are likely to cast absentee ballots in coming elections than ever.

We expect that once voters experience the convenience of casting their votes from their kitchen tables, many of them will continue the practice-whether or not a public health emergency exists. That represents an opportunity for providers of print and mail services.

Mailpiece Integrity Required

Ballot mailings, however, are not the same as run-of-the-mill direct mail projects. Mailpiece integrity, tracking, and reprints are features a company must offer for elections officials to consider them a qualified vendor for vote-by-mail support. The application requires mail service vendors to insert ballots selectively, print personalized envelopes, and match them to the ballots as they are inserted. Every piece must be tracked to be sure each voter receives the correct ballot. Damaged pieces must be reprinted, tracked, and sent within timeframes often mandated by statute.

Attempting such work without the necessary hardware, software, and integrity processes in place would be foolish. Mailing mistakes always have negative consequences for print/mail service providers, but ballot mailing is an exceptionally high-profile application. Inserting errors or distribution delays are likely to be reported by the press and could spawn government investigations. The fallout from such mistakes could damage a service provider’s business beyond repair, so we don’t recommend entering the ballot mailing business until you’ve upgraded your operation.

As you probably know, Document Data Solutions is in the business of making sure our customers can produce accurate and timely mailings. We’ve been developing and implementing mailpiece integrity systems for twenty years. Companies using our hardware and software vision-based systems process sensitive documents like bank statements, medical lab results, insurance claim and voter forms every day. DDS solutions like iDataVerifyTM are what companies need to take part in the growing ballot mailing market.

If your company doesn’t have the integrity software, and control systems ballot mailing requires, you may need to invest in an upgrade. DDS currently offers ballot integrity systems to integrate with your existing equipment, so you won’t have to spend money on new inserting machines. Just add the DDS components to make your old machines a lot smarter.

Beyond Election Jobs

Your investment in integrity equipment will provide ongoing benefits long after this years elections end. Mailers and marketers are demanding integrity, tracking, and auditing capabilities for all their mailing projects, especially as they are processed on digital presses that personalize every mailpiece. Upgrading your workflow to incorporate mailpiece integrity and tracking is an intelligent way to prepare for the future.

No one knows exactly how the corona virus outbreak will change the way we work, socialize, and handle many aspects of our lives. It’s a good bet, however, that increased interest in vote-by-mail will influence elections in the USA for a long time.