Tag Archives: Election Security

Advanced RFID Technology to Improve Post-Election Results

The complexities in the execution of a successful election cycle are significant. With hundreds or thousands of assets are being deployed to hundreds of polling site locations and precincts, the stakes are extremely high. High stakes mean relying on election systems and software that are accurate and secure.

Election assets need to be accounted for during the deployment, and most importantly, during the post-election recovery. Critical assets like voted ballots and thumb drives or media drives that contain votes need to be tracked with a complete chain of custody at every handoff during election night returns. As such, it is imperative that an election system provides accuracy, a chain of custody, and accountability in the deployment and recovery of these assets.

The challenge lies in finding a method in which a large-scale election operation can handle critical and non-critical assets, and Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS) has proven advanced RFID technology to be a sound solution.

Arming Asset Security with RFID

The sheer volume and velocity of the recovery cycle can be chaotic. Vehicles are pulling up to offload equipment that has been retrieved from the polling sites. These assets typically have barcode labels with a unique identifier (Asset ID). Election personnel and staff are responsible for scanning the barcodes on all of these assets as they are returned to the warehouse. Due to the sheer volume of some large-scale election operations, it is not uncommon for many of them to slip by the scanning team without being accounted for. This results in numbers not adding up in the system’s post-election reconciliation utility.

A well-designed system with the latest RFID technology can improve this area significantly. At WDS, we understand this accuracy issue and, as a result, we are starting to deploy RFID scanning or reading stations to capture these assets automatically. First, the assets have Passive RFID Tags assigned and related in the system’s asset profile module. Then, as they pass through our system’s RFID Antenna fields, the RFID tags are being read at a high velocity. In real-time, the system is checking the status of the Asset read and flagging it as “Returned”.

Utilizing a hybrid of RFID and Barcode technologies enables large-scale election operations to add a new level of automated data capture and detail to the assets travels from deployment to recovery.

Understanding and Respect for Limitations with RFID Technology

The RFID technology is subject to the physical environment where the RF part of the RFID equation can fail. Due to these environmental factors, there are a certain number of tags that will not activate or read as they pass through the antenna field. It is imperative to have an understanding of these limitations and work with the client environment to overcome them.

In some cases, the best design is to put multiple tags on the assets, while in other cases multiple antennas will increase the read probability. And ultimately, a final process allows staff to physically locate and scan the asset’s barcode to complete the post-election reconciliation. The bottom line is our TSX™ RFID system supports several approaches, processes, and configurations to deliver the final result of capturing 100% of the assets expected…as all properly designed and implemented systems should.

Complete Control with Customizable Election Software

While barcode scanning is sufficient in many respects, the reality is that election night chaos requires a more universal solution. The TSX™ RFID System is an efficient and effective way to provide accuracy, a chain of custody, and accountability in the deployment and recovery of these assets.

Contact Us today to learn more about our RFID Technology.

Strengthening Election Systems with Ballot Order Tracking

The election systems industry depends on processes that are manual, repetitive, and filled with data entry. The ability to automate and streamline these processes, however, can drastically enhance any election process.

From planning properly before an election to ensuring a smooth process on voting day to securing all ballots once the precincts close, a robust software solution is critical throughout every phase in the election cycle.

Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS) prides itself on building ground-up solutions that not only solve existing problems but foresee and avoid future challenges. Building election systems that wrap technology around election processes took a similar route as all of our software modules: we took a unique need to enhance and upgrade a process by learning the business and then using technology to improve as much as possible.

When we sat down with an election department it became clear that a custom module was necessary to meet their needs. After having looked for years for a solution to their election system woes, WDS designed a robust, customized solution unlike anything available before – TSX™ Elections.

 

Let’s break down our robust and feature-rich election system in detail.

Unmatched Accuracy for Ballot Ordering

WDS built an impressive ballot ordering suite by designing a grid format with columns for various quantities of ballots and accounting for registered and inactive voters. To further enhance accuracy, the system is able to utilize historical data to improve ballot ordering estimates.

Based on previous general, primary, and special election turnout, the system recommends ballot quantities for voters in that precinct. From there, users can increase or decrease the numbers by a percentage that makes sense. Plus, users are able to click on each line on the grid and change the quantity to account for variable factors, such as an anticipated increase in turnout due to a rally at a certain location.

In sum, the system looks at voters per precinct and calculates those numbers. Then, the user can apply things like historical data or percentage bumps based on precinct-specific variances.

The ability to manipulate the grid involves a series of what-if scenarios. By inputting and saving a number of ballot need scenarios, ascertaining exactly what to order becomes easy and accurate. Once a calculation and format is agreed upon, with the click of a button two files are generated:

  1. Excel file with all of the page styles needed per precinct
  2. Excel spreadsheet that has the ballot style sheets collated into finished ballots

Ballot page styles serve as a critical component to ballot ordering to ensure that the order entry module calculated how many pages and which style sheets were needed per precinct. With so many precinct-specific variable factors, TSX™ Elections is built to handle even the most complex scenarios.

Ballot Chain of Custody

The value of proper security in elections goes without saying. As such, TSX™ Elections was designed to incorporate an extensive chain of custody solution. Real-time validation of ballots, supplies, and equipment offers a level of peace of mind that is vital during election season.

Once the collated, sorted ballot packet comes off of the print line and is boxed, the barcode label is applied to the box. This barcode comes equipped with an intelligent number that includes all pertinent information about the ballots inside – event ID, election ID, precinct, party affiliation, and the total number of ballots.

As an option, the barcode may be scanned at the vendor site to be communicated to the TSX™ system to create an advanced shipping notice of the ballots heading to the election warehouse. Then, once they arrive at the warehouse the barcodes are scanned again. While 2-stage scanning is not always possible when performed, it safeguards the ballot tracking and confirms a smooth process from printing to storage.

Tracking the ballots through their entire lifecycle and chain of custody is imperative to the election cycle. TSX™ Elections features:

  • Real-time GPS mapping and visibility of ballots
  • Browser-based and scalable mobile applications
  • On-premise or on cloud
  • Customizable election systems to fit any elections department

In addition to meticulously tracking ballots, the TSX™ Elections system has the capacity to handle the additional ballots needed for the closing of registration for the election. Taking the estimated number of ballots ordered and comparing it to the registered voter counts, the system is able to alert management if more ballots will be needed for Election Day. Using the software, the user can select the style of ballot by precinct and party affiliation and order the quantity to add on to the current stock in the warehouse.

Enriched outbound tracking of the ballots is accomplished via GPS tracking. TSX™ Elections uses GPS coordinates, a smartphone application, geofencing, and breadcrumbs to make sure that the truck routes are verified and secure. Being able to track the delivery of the election ballots in real-time is essential to guaranteeing the polling sites have the right number of ballots needed for the expected voter turnout at that precinct.

Finally, it is important to note that the TSX™ Elections system is fully equipped to handle post-election compliance inquiries and auditing.

Enhanced Election Night Protection

Tracking voted ballots is never more important than it is post-election. When the polling sites close, all ballots (voted, unused, spoiled, and provisional) are handled with unmatched protection. The following retrieval process makes TSX™ Elections unlike anything else of its kind:

  1. Critical assets (ballots…plus thumb drives, signature documents, etc.) are picked up
  2. GPS satellite captures the driver’s cell phone location every 10 seconds to create the virtual breadcrumb trail
  3. Critical assets are delivered to the collection center or designated facility
  4. Critical assets are scanned at the collection center as they are received
  5. Everything is monitored and updated in real-time on the Election Night Dashboard, which can be accessed anywhere via the web

The Election Night Dashboard offers an easy-to-read interface providing management with real-time updates to allow for proactive responses as opposed to reactive emergencies. With fast and accurate tracking, retrieval, and storage of voted ballots, TSX™ Elections is ideal for easy retrieval for audits and/or recounts.

The TSX™ Elections system even offers real-time proof of pickup, retrieval, and storage for non-critical assets like chairs, tables, and laptops. While this is certainly not as critical as the ballots, thumb drives, and signature documents, it is still important to have proof that everything shipped out is returned.

Accountability, chain of custody, accuracy, and security are imperative components throughout each phase of the election cycle. TSX™ Elections provides that and more for elections departments both large and small.

Contact Us Today 

Stay tuned for a future article about the supply chain model for all election assets and materials.

 

WDS Upgrades Its Election Supply Chain & Security Solutions

Nearly 140 million Americans voted in the 2016 election. While much of the attention regarding elections focus on candidates and their platforms, the reality is that the election system itself is a robust and impressive methodology. In both function and form, the election process starts and ends with election equipment and software.

Wireless Data Systems, Inc. (WDS) provides the unmatched, high-quality inventory management and software tracking system to some of the largest elections departments in the state of Florida. Trusting WDS with election supply chain and security means placing massive value in their ability to handle the election assets flawlessly in each stage of the process.

From election preparation to organizing field operations and securing pickup to securing media returns, relying on WDS systems and technology underlines how critical accuracy and security are in the election process. Knowing where election assets and ballots are at all times is imperative.

With this in mind, WDS has made some groundbreaking improvements and additions to our election supply chain and security, most notably:

  • Allocation Module upgrades
  • Quality Assurance Module
  • GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery

Over the last 15 years, the modules within our system are continually updated and upgraded to meet the needs and demands of the changing elections cycles. Let’s take an in-depth look at some of our latest developments.

Allocation Module Upgrades

Built-in 2018, the WDS Allocation Module was developed to allow users to determine how many assets to allocate based upon the number of registered voters at each polling site. The original system put in place utilized mathematical formulas (managed by the user) to calculate how many of each item is needed per polling location based on the registered voter count.

Dynamic Technology Improvements

Beginning last December, the Allocation Module was given a critical upgrade to make the system dynamic – letting users add and remove assets freely. In doing so, it allows the system usability for any elections department, including addressing the early voting needs which happen separately from Election Day. Early voting is a much simpler process but still incorporates dynamic changes.

In addition, modifications to the Allocation Module include inventory validation based on the allocation and enhanced label printing process to accommodate the ever-changing list of items.

As requirements change, new and more secure equipment becomes necessary. The objective for WDS is to provide users with the tools to grow and change without being reliant on us. Our feature-rich system allows for a seamless process before, during, and after Election Day.

Quality Assurance Module

Quality assurance is vital in virtually every industry, but when it comes to elections, this feature is indispensable. With this in mind, WDS has launched the Quality Assurance Module. Providing a list of items in need of quality assurance (QA) prior to being sent to the polling locations, these lists are created based upon the allocation needs mentioned above.

Within the process of QA, many validations occur to ensure that the right items are being scanned, packed, and prepared for the polling site. The checklist portion of the module is a dynamic feature that allows the client to add and remove checklist items as their equipment and requirements change. This feature gives our clients the necessary independence that keeps running efficiently and smoothly on their end.

In addition, the QA Module has a damaged item section, so if an item does not make it through QA, it is rejected and isolated to be addressed before being released. It is important to remember that the Quality Assurance Module works downstream from Allocation Module, meaning the Allocation Module is feeding the QA data to keep systems accurate and secure.

The main goal here is to take numbers from Allocation Module and put them in real-world format (the checklist), which allows users to scan and assign assets in the real world against the allocation. All of the WDS checklist features are customizable. With a dynamic checklist, all QA measures can be modified as the user sees fit.

The Quality Assurance Module has added a deeper and essential level of accuracy, safeguarding critical assets and ensuring a well-organized overall process.

GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery

WDS prides itself on placing a major emphasis on security, accountability, and efficiency. With this mind, we have launched the landmark GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery. A mobile application that can be easily installed on a smartphone, the GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery serves to create unmatched tracking capabilities for all of your assets. The system comes equipped with two essential features:

  1. Geofence Technology
  2. Breadcrumb Tracking

GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery works to verify that the assets being scanned are assigned to the correct precinct.

Geofence Technology

The geofence technology is a Google Maps API where the user types the desired address into the system, saves it, and then that address is bounced against Google Maps to determine the longitude and latitude for the specific location. From there, the user can customize the specific location to an impressive degree of precision, i.e. the back of the building or a particular parking lot. Using the mobile app upon delivery, when the asset serial number scanned is outside of the geofence, an alert is sent out as an extra security measure.

Breadcrumb Tracking

The breadcrumb tracking functionality is essential to the accuracy and security of all assets. Opening the app and hitting start when a user leaves the warehouse with an asset, breadcrumb tracking is enabled. At this moment, it begins taking the GPS location of the phone every few seconds as the user drives through the city. With the intention of ensuring that the user is taking the assets to the polling site, breadcrumb tracking allows for an unmatched chain of custody where it would otherwise be unavailable.

Being able to confirm that the asset is being moved along the right route, without lengthy stops along the way, greatly reduces security concerns.

The Value of GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery

GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery sets geofences that determine the acceptable drop off location. Once in route, breadcrumb tracking is enabled to pinpoint the exact location of critical assets (such as media, ballots, etc.) at all times. Once at the drop off location, the application will validate that the user is within the geofence when scanning items. If outside of the geofence, a photo may be taken to compensate for GPS accuracy. In addition, there is always validation that the item was assigned to the location regardless of GPS location.

As such, geofence technology and breadcrumb tracking work in conjunction to create a uniform, fail-safe operation before, during, and after Election Day.

The Future of Election Supply Chain Solutions and Beyond

It is important to note that our systems do not directly interact with a voter, but they ensure that the polling sites have the right equipment. No voter data or ballot data is stored within our system, yet we are constantly aware of the physical asset security our systems are responsible for.

At WDS, we not only build adaptable applications for our clients, but we also maintain a high standard for adaptability within our company. The various systems mentioned above can easily be tweaked and modified for other industries. For example, the GPS Assisted Proof of Delivery can be utilized for any company that delivers items to their clients. They can ensure that the right item gets dropped off at the right location and we can send a notification when it is dropped off.

In addition, the Allocation Module could potentially be utilized in construction where various sized/types of jobs need varying amounts of inventory allocated to them. The Quality Assurance Module could be utilized in any manufacturing and packing operation. From technology to innovation, we continue to improve upon and develop our dynamic solutions.

Applying technology and innovation to system management means building application solutions that meet evolving needs. At WDS, we have mastered the ability to create solutions for one industry and then fine-tune those solutions to work across another industry. In doing so, we have proven time and time again that our clients benefit greatly from having our hands in developing and perfecting their hardware and software solutions.

2020 Election System Roadmap

Polling Site Reconciliation Module

Expected Completion Date: September 2020

This module is meant to further close the physical security gap within the Election Cycle. All steps occur at the polling site on Election Day, and they are done by the polling site staff. The module will allow additional validation of assets and ballots before polls open and once polls close. Both of these points in the cycle are critical security points to ensure ballots and equipment are all accounted for and have not been tampered with since being delivered.

GPS Assisted Critical Asset Retrieval on Election Night

Expected Completion Date: December 2020

Voted ballots and ballot media (thumb drives from ballot tabulators) are the most critical assets to an election operation. WDS can help ensure their security is by tracking their location while they are being driven back from the polling site. This new mobile application will have loading validation to ensure all expected ballots are loaded, and breadcrumb tracking functionality (like our GPS Assisted POD App) in order to track the user’s cell phone en route back to the collection center. Finally, it will work in conjunction with our Election Night Dashboard to provide a graphical look into where the critical assets are on Election Night.