Michael Grosspietsch, Product Manager, Election Systems
There was a time when the term “automation” was only synonymous with advanced manufacturing organizations with robotics. But that’s a thing of the past. From drastically improving efficiency and productivity to making it easier for enterprises to streamline their repetitive processes, automation has significantly impacted every industry and business, and the realm of election and campaign management is no different.
While the elections are around the corner, the states are more inclined to adopt vote-by-mail automation more than ever to ensure voter safety. To serve the needs of modern citizens, vote-by-mail and absentee balloting have gradually evolved over the years to help municipalities nationwide to ensure the integrity of elections, comply with election regulations and timelines, and, most importantly, bring down the cost of running manual polling stations. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail in a contactless and socially distant way is going to a preference for many. While the US is bracing itself for one of the first presidential elections conducted mostly by mail, many of the internal procedures like mailing of ballots, ballot reception, ballot tabulation, and security are going to be highly complex. From validating and counting a deluge of posted ballots mail envelopes to managing the entire procedure of processing ballot mail envelopes in an efficient manner, the challenges loom large for government officials.
However, there’s one organization that is seamlessly changing this narrative.
Enter Fluence Automation
On a mission to “make it easier for election officials,” Fluence Automation brings affordable, practical solutions based on its advanced sorting platforms, that solve many of the most difficult challenges with regard to processing ballot mail envelopes. Be it adapting to a new voting procedure or processing elections smoothly and accurately, the company assists customers with legacy processes to adopt one-pass automation for managing processes right from opening an envelope, recording the ballot mails received, updating a database to signature verification, and more. “Our rich history in sorting mail along with our high-speed imaging creates a substantial reduction in processing times for inbound or outbound mail. Currently, election officials need automation to speed their way through all this mail and our solutions are well-suited to meet this need,” says Michael Grosspietsch, Product Manager, Election Systems, Fluence Automation. To put it succinctly, the unique one-pass automated operation from Fluence Automation eliminates human intervention required to perform time-extensive procedures like remove a security tab, verify the signatures, open the mail, and more, thereby significantly reducing the valuable time of the officials on election night. For an election officer, it all comes down to a matter of a few hours compared to the days of work.
At the core, Fluence Automation draws on its rich automation technology expertise for sortation, process automation, image processing, print and apply labeling, sortation software, and integration services. Fluence Automation designs, builds, and supports solutions that make managing mailed ballot envelopes easier and optimize the workflow. Besides automating signature verification, these solutions can automate inline envelope opening and privacy tab removal, verify ballot envelopes, capture multiple data points for audit tracking, and digitize envelopes and signatures. The Vote by Mail solutions from Fluence Automations integrates seamlessly with the existing EMS, automates the data transfer, and populates third-party notification systems to keep everyone updated. “In the wake of the pandemic and the rise of absentee balloting, election officials are procuring equipment to keep up with the sheer volume of mail coming through.
Currently, election officials need automation to speed their way through all this mail and our solutions are well-suited to meet this need
We work with these officials as a consultative partner to help them plan and manage this increase of inbound mail,” says Jacob H. Halbur, Government Contracts Manager, Fluence Automation.
How it Works
A typical client engagement with smaller jurisdictions at Fluence Automation begins with a manual workstation. This is especially applicable for smaller jurisdictions with lower volume mail, who want to create an audit trail, have signature images, and more. The manual workstation includes a scanner that images the barcode, as well as the mailpiece, for verifying voter signatures and updating the EMS offline with the data. Fluence Automation also provides tabletop solutions that comprise the same functionality as manual workstation along with add-on features like mail sorting machines and automatic signature verification. This intermediate level of automation is carried out by products like Criterion Apex DM and Criterion Elevate. Criterion Apex DM is a high-speed sorter optimized for direct mail that allows users to easily sort heavyweight, heavy-letter, slick/glossy, tall mail, and much more. With operating speeds up to 72,000 pieces per hour, the Criterion Apex DM enables the users to process more of your mail than ever before.
“Our vast range of solutions successfully meet the requirements of counties with a small voter base all the way up to a large city like Los Angeles,” says Halbur, before adding that Fluence Automation’s solutions can be instrumental for bringing in higher productivity in all vote-by-mail states like Oregon. Onboarding clients involves a great consultative process that begins with an initial consult from the account representative to the person responsible for design ballots. After this, software engineers get involved in applying DevOps specifications to connect to an EMS system seamlessly. Fluence Automation assures that everything from mail to management systems are worked out properly for election offices that keep them ahead of time.
Fluence Automation takes pride in the fast workflow improvements that can bring changes to the existing processes. With speedy equipment and proven sorting software, the company guarantees seamless communication with elections management systems across multiple states. Having served clients with mail sorting for the past 40 years, Fluence Automation’s profound experience in this realm is a winning differentiator. To highlight one of the many client success stories, Grosspietsch recalls an instance wherein a California-based customer was searching for various equipment for the election office. There were different people in his office who would carry out different manual tasks such as removing the security tabs while handling mails. The client reached out to Fluence Automation and consulted to have a separate opener so that the security tab is not removed. The client requested to assemble automatic signatures and all other service contracts in a machine to serve the required purpose. The team at Fluence Automation consolidated all the desired services in a machine that significantly reduced the client’s concerns and challenges. Apart from this, to monitor the proper functioning of the machine, an on-site technician was also appointed by Fluence Automation to fix any issues experienced by the client.
Scripting similar success stories, Fluence Automation is looking forward to the general elections this year and believes that by 2021 the vote by mail concept will be accepted widely. Besides large counties, the company is also focused on collaborating with entry-level smaller-volume jurisdictions. As for the future roadmap, the plan is to focus on how Americans perceive the trend of vote by mail. With more and more election offices being satisfied with the automated voting processes, Fluence Automation is at the forefront of this new trend, primed to help customers reap the benefits.