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Ballot Tracking

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Most election years, the majority of Americans who cast their vote for president do so at a local polling station. But 2020 isn't like most election years — come November 3, the threat of the coronavirus will still be looming large over the nation.

Packed polling stations have the potential to be hotspots for infections, so a record number of voters are expected to cast their votes by mail this year.

Some people, including President Donald Trump, are predicting that the USPS won't be able to handle the volume surge or will lose or delay ballots en route, threatening the integrity of the election.

In an attempt to increase voters' dropping confidence in mail-in voting, at least 46 states now offer free ballot tracking — letting voters follow their ballot's journey from the mailbox to the election office.

Ballot Tracking Tech

The ballot tracking tech in the 2020 election varies from district to district.

Some places have extremely straightforward systems in place: voters visit a website, enter some personal information (e.g., their name and birthdate), and then see if their ballot has reached the election office or is still en route.

Others utilize more robust software programs, such as BallotTrax and Ballot Scout. Voters can use these ballot tracking tools to sign up for text, phone call, or email notifications that alert them to every step in their ballot's life — from printing to acceptance for counting.

"It's sort of similar to the way you would track an Amazon package, where you can see where the package currently is in a mail stream," Jessenia Eliza, director of government initiatives at Democracy Works, the nonprofit behind Ballot Scout, told Fast Company.

ballot tracking

A screenshot from the BallotTrax app. Credit: BallotTrax

Beyond Tracking Mail-In Ballots

The potential benefits of ballot tracking extend beyond simply letting voters know their ballot's status, too.

In some places, the tools can also alert voters to problems with their mail-in ballot — a missing signature, for example — and give them instructions on how to fix it. This could ensure that every mail-in ballot submitted actually ends up counting in an election.

"It’s similar to the way you would track an Amazon package."

Jessenia Eliza

The tech can also free election officials from the burden of answering voters' questions about the status of their mail-in ballot. In Denver, for example, officials used to field such inquiries from about 25% of voters — after the implementation of a ballot tracking system, that dropped to about 5%.

PC Mag has compiled links to the ballot tracking sites set up for the 2020 election, so if you're interested in tracking your own mail-in ballot, just click on the link below the name of your state.

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