[Image courtesy of VoteSeminole]

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the Mark Twain quote “Supposing is good, but finding out is better” … it speaks to me in its homespun commitment to collect information when considering any kind of decision. Indeed, it’s a nice motto for the push toward evidence-based election administration that animates so many recent advances in the field.

That’s why I was tickled to get the above graphic from Seminole County, FL’s Mike Ertel detailing some top-level results of a voter experience survey conducted in 2014. The county recently switched to an iPad-based check-in system and was curious about how well voters thought it worked at the polls. Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s email:

Attached is our Voter Experience report, which you may find interesting…

It takes all of our comment cards from the polls and uses the data garnered to improve the process. We also used the cards to create an instant buzz among our electorate by asking them to tweet their voting experience real-time using the hashtag #VoteSeminole.

We used the data from the comment cards in the past to discern how many voters called our pollworkers “volunteers.” After the first notice of that, we modified our marketing for pollworkers to step down on the civic duty aspect and remind people pollworkers get paid. The next comment card report showed a 50 percent reduction in the use of the word “volunteers” relating to pollworkers.

The other part of the study that I found especially interesting was the focus on the seemingly small matter of ballpoint vs. felt-tip pens. Although the 2014 survey found that lines were not a problem in Seminole, many cards noted that the county’s recent switch to ballpoint pens for ballot marking had slowed down the process. Armed with that information, staff conducted a test and found (see graphic above) that felt-tip pens decreased voting time almost 40%. While the actual average time saved (42 seconds) seems small, the prospect of such delays adding up and creating lines – especially in a high-turnout election year like 2016 – led the County to switch back to felt-tip pens. This is a great example of both listening to voters and testing what they suggest.

I also like the fact that the comment cards were “buzz-worthy” … we already know that voters are most responsive to message from fellow voters and the survey process (with its encouragement to Tweet about voting) is a smart way to generate that buzz.

All in all, this is a great program and had me electiongeeking HARD. Twain would be proud.

Thanks to Mike Ertel for sharing the results of the study – and I look forward to seeing more!