Government, News

Mon County’s ‘ExpressVote’ impresses Philadelphia officials

MORGANTOWN — For those keeping track, Tuesday’s primary election — from the closure of the polls to the posting of the unofficial results — took 58 minutes.
In less than an hour, the 13,210 votes cast during early voting and on Election Day were transported from the polling locations, sorted by the county’s ExpressVote equipment and ready for dissemination.
So it should come as little surprise that a contingent of election officials from Philadelphia were in town getting a first-hand look at how the first county in the country to convert fully to digitized election equipment puts out the ballot box.
“They were very impressed with our operation, our management and how we lay our precincts out. I think they were impressed with how we present our information to our voters and how easily we were able to vote a significant amount of people with virtually no wait times,” Monongalia County Clerk Carye Blaney said. “I think that’s what they’re looking to recreate in Philadelphia. I think it was a positive experience for them and it was an exciting time hosting them.”
And while the quick turnarounds are a contrast to the days of paper ballots, Blaney explained that there isn’t election equipment available that will make an election run smoothly if months’ worth of work doesn’t proceed it — in other words, it take a lot of work to make it look easy.
“All the greatest, most expensive equipment in the world will not handle your process for you. You still have to put the management processes in place; you still have to make sure that your team is well trained and in the proper positions; that your precincts are well-planned and laid out; that all your audits and reports are in order and that you have adequate communication with your voters,” Blaney said, explaining that the bottom line is getting the numbers right, not getting them fast.
Even so, Blaney said the process could be even faster and more secure if the state legislature would allow results from the polling locations to be transmitted digitally to election central.
“It’s not about getting done faster and I certainly don’t want that to be the takeaway from all of this because it doesn’t matter to me if it takes four hours to get done — it’s getting it done accurately, securely and efficiently,” she said. “The big takeaway of electronically moving the information is I would not have 56 individuals who had to be in a vehicle on the road driving the information back to me.”
Blaney said she would also like lawmakers to look at allowing early voting locations to remain open through Election Day.
As for Tuesday’s turnout, just under 20 percent of the county’s 66,736 registered voters participated.
Blaney said she’d hoped that number would be closer to 25 percent. She predicts stronger turnout in November with Constitutional amendments on the ballot regarding public funding of abortions and fiscal oversight of the judiciary.
Members of the Monongalia County Commission thanked Blaney and the county’s election staff for their representation of the county on Election Day.

“This was my first election night being at Election Central and I thought it was going to be a long night. I could have been out of there in an hour,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said. “I want to thank Carye and her staff for all their hard work. It ran very smoothly.”
The Monongalia County Commission approved the purchase of the ExpresVote equipment in 2015 from Election Systems & Software for $1,298,550.