mailed ballot (Svanblar/

2018 Government Innovation Awards

Making voting by mail more accountable

In Orange County, Calif., 55 percent of the votes cast in each election come via vote-by-mail ballots. To make the process more efficient and increase public confidence, the county’s Registrar of Voters pilot-tested an ambitious effort to enable voters to track their ballots during the primary election in June.

OC Ballot Express

Orange County, Calif., Registrar of Voters

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The agency added bar codes to the ballots mailed to voters and created an online dashboard where voters can track their ballots through every stage of the process and find out if there is an issue with their acceptance.

The Registrar of Voters collaborated with the U.S. Postal Service to develop the bar codes. “We’ve been working with the Postal Service for years because we are a large mailer in Orange County,” Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley said. “When we were expanding our mailing system, we worked closely with their data folks to start integrating the data that we needed on our end.”

Kelley said the majority of voters were satisfied with the pilot process but noted that his office needs to do a better job of notifying the voters who submit vote-by-mail ballots in person at their polling places on Election Day.

“Since those ballots are not going through the Postal Service, the first indication data on our end would be when we scan it into our system at our offices,” Kelley said. “We have 1,000 polling places…and 30 percent of voters are dropping their ballots off at a local precinct.”

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