EasyVote’s Software Promises Smoother Running Elections

As voters queue to fill out ballots on election Tuesday, some voters might notice the lines moving a bit faster, the precincts running more orderly, and as the polls close, vote totals coming earlier than in past elections. They might have new election software to thank for that.

EasyVote Solutions, a Wilmington, NC company, has developed software that automates data entry, poll worker scheduling, election night reporting, and other tasks that even today remain manual processes in much of the country. Helping election officials plan and run elections more efficiently enables officials to provide a smoother voter experience, says Ron Davis, the startup’s CEO. The software, which is also called EasyVote, is a cloud-based application that since 2010, has been installed and used in 85 jurisdictions throughout the Southeast.

“We’ve proved it works in the South,” Davis says. “Now we’re trying to bring it to the rest of the country.”

While local governments have digitized and automated some processes, adoption of new elections technology has come more slowly. For most elections offices, technology refers to voting machines. But elections technology standards that were adopted in 2005 have become outdated, according to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a non-partisan body established in 2013 to identify ways to improve the voting process.

In a report released in January, the commission notes that the 2005 standards predate the first generation iPad by five years. The standards were made for technologies where a vendor provides end-to end technology for systems that can’t be customized or updated. As election machines are phased out, the commission recommends adoption of “software-only solutions,” that would run on off-the-shelf hardware, such as tablet computers. An iPad could handle functions such as check in, voting, and verification and when the elections are over, could find some other useful purpose by government officials.

“Jurisdictions that use electronic voting machines usually deploy machines for a few days per year and then lock them up in storage for the rest,” the commission says. “For cash-strapped jurisdictions that wish to keep pace with evolving technology, the purchase of hundreds of expensive, specialized pieces of hardware good for only one purpose—elections—no longer makes sense.”

Many elections offices rely on decades-old procedures that in this day and age, make it hard to plan for elections, manage an elections staff of thousands, and gather and report data in a timely fashion, Davis says. On election night, these bottlenecks contribute to long lines for voters. He saw these issues firsthand for nearly eight years, selling software to elections officials through a reseller. Davis concluded that rather than reselling software, he and his brother, Charles Davis, could develop and sell elections software to ease these pain points and others experienced by elections officials, and ultimately by voters.

The software they developed became the company EasyVote Solutions, formed in 2012 with Ron as CEO and Charles, who has a background in finance, as the CFO. Chuck Giddens, a former AT&T (NYSE: T) software developer, oversees software development as chief technology officer. For the last eight months, EasyVote has operated from startup co-working space at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Election technology started to see new investment following the disputes over the infamous “hanging chads” (incompletely punched paper ballots) and other problems in Florida in the 2000 presidential election that were contested all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) called for … Next Page »

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Frank Vinluan is editor of Xconomy Raleigh-Durham, based in Research Triangle Park. You can reach him at fvinluan [at] xconomy.com Follow @frankvinluan

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