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electionlineWeekly — February 12, 2015

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I. In Focus This Week

There’s an app for that
Denver Elections Division creates app to streamline petition process

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Coffee stains, bad penmanship, rips, tears and lots of folds and crinkles.

From elections office staff to candidates to campaign volunteers, anyone who has worked an election knows what a mess ballot petitions can be.

That’s why the Denver Elections Division has come up with what’s believed to be a first-in-the-nation way to gather signatures that is fast, efficient and coffee stain free.

Beginning with the qualifying process for municipal elections this May, the office is test piloting a program that allows candidates to use a tablet and stylus to gather ballot petition signatures.

“This cutting edge application has the potential to transform the petition process - providing easier access to the ballot and efficiencies never seen before in this country,” said Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson. “For years the hallmark of Denver Elections has been innovation and progress - 2015 will be no different. This bold approach has one thing in mind: our customers.”

eSign, as the office is calling new application, allows circulators to gather signatures on a tablet that is registered with the  Elections Division.

“We verify every signature on every petition,” said Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division. “Think of eSign as petition marking device similar to a ballot-marking device. The printed pages go through the same legally required signature verification process that paper petitions go through.”

The app allows circulators to verify the voter registration of the signer before collecting the signature and keeps a running tally of the number of signatures collected.

Tablets can be “borrowed” from the Elections Division for a $375 deposit or campaigns may register personal iPads with the Elections Division and download the app to gather signatures.

“The signatures are housed on our server so in the event a tablet is lost or stolen the signatures wouldn’t be accessible to unauthorized persons,” Dillard explained. “The voter information on the tablets that are used to confirm voter eligibility comes from a database of voter information that is public record.”

Currently about 18 campaigns are using eSign for the May election cycle and as the deadline for qualification approaches — March 11 — Dillard expects more potential candidates to get on board.

The office worked with a local vendor — 303 Software — to create the app, which cost about $60,000 to create and implement.

“We actually created eSign for the convenience of the candidates and to modernize the signature gathering process,” Dillard said. “Being able to confirm on the spot that a voter is eligible to sign a candidate petition leads to a increased acceptance rate.”

Because Denver is a Home Rule City and County, and the app is only being used for municipal elections, the elections division did not need a legislative change or go-ahead from the secretary of state’s office in order to implement the new technology.

The office did, however, promulgate its own rules for the use of the app. The app can be used for local campaigns ballot initiatives, but due to existing state law cannot be used for City Charter Amendment petitions.

The hope is that following a successful pilot, eSign can be adopted not only statewide, but also for other jurisdictions throughout the country.

“We would hope to see eSign rolled out for broader use in the future,” Dillard said. “Since eSign is a first-in-the-nation technology, we are already hearing from other municipalities about how to create a similar system.”

Editor’s Note: Is your elections office using technology in a new and unique way that saves time and money? If so, let us know because we’d love to let everyone else know!