Analysis

A Kansas County Demonstrates the Value of Online Election Information

Election Tech Tuesday This Election Data Dispatch series explores emerging issues in elections technology and their relationship to the future of voting and civic engagement in America.

A Kansas County Demonstrates the Value of Online Election Information

Johnson County, Kansas, is a leader in voter information and outreach efforts. In 2008, the county introduced a novel voter education campaign known as JoCoPoLo (Johnson County Polling Locator), which includes a website and text messaging service allowing voters to look up their polling locations. The positive impacts were immediate: The number of provisional ballots issued to voters who were at the wrong polling places fell 84 percent, from 4,267 in 2004 to just 668 in 2008.

And according to recent data from Johnson County, the benefits have continued. Provisional ballot use declined another 28 percent to 478 during the 2012 presidential election.

In Kansas, as in most states, voters at the wrong polling locations must cast provisional ballots that might not be counted. This process is inconvenient for voters and causes bureaucratic strain for election officials, because casting and counting provisional ballots involve different processes from those for regular ballots.

To help improve the voting experience statewide, Kansas released the nation’s first state-branded version of the Voting Information Project iOS appVoteKansas, which was launched in time for the state’s Aug. 5 primary, allowed voters to use smartphones to find their polling places and see the races and candidates on their ballots.

The experience of Johnson County suggests that this latest innovation could have ongoing benefits for voters and administrators statewide. Voter education campaigns, combined with election information tools provided online and on mobile platforms, can empower voters to find the information they need to cast their ballots.

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