With Election Day just one week away and early voting well underway, long lines are the rule rather than the exception at polling places statewide.
To help Marion County voters know how long they may have to wait in line, a group of Indiana tech companies has launched a website to help track wait times.
The coalition, IN Tech for Progress, includes employees from Anvl, Lessonly, and Springbuk, all Software-as-a-Service providers.
They partnered with nonprofit organization Vote Safe Indiana, which is advocating for mail-in and no-fault absentee voting.
“We started to talk about mobilizing more folks in the tech community to be politically engaged,” said Roger Deetz, vice president of technology at Springbuk. “Then out of that came the idea of applying technology to help voters be informed with the wait times.”
The website is already operational allowing early voters to track wait times at the six satellite voting locations in Marion County, including the City-County Building.
On Saturday, our partners at WISH-TV reported five to six-hour-long waits at St. Luke’s Methodist Church on the city’s northwest side, while waits at the CCB were closer to two hours long.
“So, when they’re developing their voting plan, they may have a 40-minute drive that takes them out of the way that could save them five hours,” said John Ellis, chief technology officer for Anvl. “Ultimately, how can we give them kind of that ‘Fast Pass’ approach to getting them out to vote?”
Volunteers at polling places are using Anvl’s SaaS platform, which is usually used to monitor safety compliance in construction and manufacturing sites, to capture the data. Another platform, Lessonly, will host the data.
The site consists of verified and unverified wait times. Deetz says verified wait times will be reported by the volunteers.
“We need to enable those volunteers with technology so that they could actually be on the ground and have a smooth way to report the data that they’re seeing. Then have a smooth way to get that combined into that very simple straightforward is the site that the voters are seeing,” Deetz said.
The organization is using a couple of different methods.
Volunteers ask voters if they are willing to be timed from the time they check in to when they have finished voting to get a verified vote time.
They are also estimating the number of people in line and count how many people are leaving at fixed intervals. The software estimates unverified wait times.
The volunteers then submit the data on their smartphones on the Anvl app.
“How do you spread out the traffic so that everyone has a good experience? And no one is left standing forever? And so how do we do that with the electoral process as well, so that everyone feels like they can equally participate and be part of that,” said Ellis.
Right now, the organization has 125 volunteers taking shifts at each of the remote locations. On election day, they expect to have enough volunteers to cover about one-third of the 188 voting centers throughout Marion County. Deetz says they intend to staff volunteers at the polling places which are typically the busiest.
As of Monday afternoon, the website was showing two-to-three-hour waits. Deetz says there is a risk that people could see those lengthy windows and choose not to vote.
“It was something that crossed our mind, we didn’t want it to be a deterrent,” said Deetz. “We want this to be transparent for voters who want to have the information that they can use to make decisions about how to best execute their voting plan.”
Deetz says the organization hopes to use the data can be used to influence the election and policymakers going forward to be able to say, ‘Look at the amount of burden that these long times are placing on folks.’”
The group says the software could eventually be marketed to other voting municipalities.
To view the website, click here.
Ellis said the goal is to discern wait-time trends to help voters as they head to the polls.
Deetz said support for transparency overshadows concerns about the possibility of losing voters due to long wait times.