Tablet Computers To Aid Elections

New technology hopes to solve polling site issues quicker. Photo: BOE.

City Board of Elections purchases 4,000 tablet computers to speed up election results and monitoring. The Board of Elections of the City of New York has introduced new technology to speed up election results and report problems at poll sites. The Board’s tablet program has grown since its implementation in 2013 when election monitoring teams started with 500 tablets. The Board now has more than 4,000 tablets housed in the Board’s Manhattan warehouse and available for use. Both the monitoring teams and the poll sites are issued their own sets of tablets. The tablets are Microsoft Surfaces specifically chosen for their USB ports, central charging, and general flexibility, according to Steve Thompson, supervisor of Poll Site Devices at the NYC Board of Elections. Each poll site will have two tablets powered by a Verizon Wifi Hotspot for Internet access.

Before a tablet program was instituted in 2015, election night problems took longer to resolve, and election results were delayed until the NYPD entered the handwritten results into an electronic system. Thanks to the tablet program, most of the election results are now reported within the first half hour after the polls close now. Poll site coordinators use one of the tablets to transmit unofficial election results through the tablet’s USB port. At the Commissioner’s Meeting on October 27th, 2015, staff reported that by 9:20 P.M., 80 percent of the unofficial election results from the September 10, 2015 primary election had been uploaded from the poll sites via tablets.

Prior to 2013, election monitoring teams only had portable laptops to report poll site concerns. Any immediate requests from a poll site would require a phone call from the site itself. Poll workers now are able to generate tickets to report problems using the Board’s proprietary software designed by election software consultants at SageSmith. Tickets can be generated by either the monitoring teams or the poll site coordinators. The poll site coordinator can use the tablets to report problems such as space issues, lack of poll workers or other questions. The Information clerks also use the tablets throughout the day to answer questions from Election and Assembly Districts and voting locations.

For the positives that the tablets have generated, there are still some worries. Without Internet access, the tablets become useless. Monitoring teams and poll site coordinators must then rely on traditional means to report site problems, direct voters, or report unofficial election results. Hacking concerns are also a worry, as the servers and connectivity that the Board relies on must be encrypted, especially in today’s age when election interference has become a threat. So far, the Board has not faced a situation where the tablets have failed to fulfill their usefulness, and plan on continuing their use throughout future elections.


By: Dennis Futoryan (Dennis is a student at New York Law School, Class of 2019.)