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9 jurisdictions around the country are using CTCL’s election website template, and with the close of the 2016 General Election season, we wanted to check in with some of them to hear how their websites have been performing.
We reached out to 3 jurisdictions: Carroll County, Ohio; Inyo County, California; and Mercer County, West Virginia. Since launching in the summer of 2014, their websites have been viewed over 150,000 times! The election officials we spoke to shared feedback and told us about how their election websites have changed things in their offices.
The power of simplicity
Above all else, the officials appreciate the fact that their websites are simple and easy for voters to use. Kammi Foote, the Clerk-Recorder-Registrar of Inyo County, California, says what she likes best about the Inyo County Elections website is that “it is mobile friendly and in plain language.”
In the past, Kammi posted election content on her county government website, but, she says, it was “non-mobile friendly and hard to navigate.” But today, the responsive web design and plain language of her new site have made it so that “The public and the media are very pleased to be able to find important civic information quickly.”
That’s also been the experience of Kathy Lambert, Deputy Clerk in Mercer County, West Virginia, who says she often gets positive feedback about how clear and intuitive the Mercer County Election Office website is. According to Kathy, voters frequently tell her “it’s really nice to have someplace to go to get information easily.”
Control and independence
Of course, a good election website should be not just easy for the public to use, but simple for office staff to maintain, too.
Kammi emphasizes that being able to maintain and update her own site has given her more independence when it comes to providing information. “Updating the election website has been very easy and efficient,” she explains, “and having the authority to independently update the website has resulted in faster posting of election results and updates.”
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of having control over your website. “I can’t imagine,” says Kammi, “having to go back to an Information Systems-controlled website with little or no control regarding when updates occur and how.”
Kathy says that, in Mercer County, her site has brought independence not just for office staff, but for poll workers, too. On Election Day, when the office is quite busy, poll workers can check voters’ registration information themselves using a portal on the Mercer election website. This means there’s no need to call the office. “The poll workers have said it really has come in handy because our phones are usually busy most of the day,” Kathy reports.
No news is good news
Although these officials have heard good feedback from the public about their websites, they say that an equally important sign of success is when they hear nothing at all.
That’s because when voters, candidates, and journalists can find the election information they’re looking for online, there’s less need to contact the office.
Amanda Tubaugh, who serves as Deputy Director of the Board of Elections for Carroll County, Ohio, says that the biggest benefit of having the new Carroll County Board of Elections website is that “Public requests for information have decreased due to the amount of data we are able to place on our website. Election night calls,” she continues, “have also decreased due to placing the results on the website.”
Kathy’s noticed the same thing in Mercer County. She tells us that she used to get a lot of calls asking about past election results, but that’s all changed now. With the website, “I don’t have to look for all that information to give them,” she says. “It’s all right there on the site.”
When citizens no longer need to ask public servants for information, it benefits everybody. Folks in the community find what they need more quickly and easily, while election officials spend less time fielding routine inquiries and can address other tasks.
“It has helped ease the amount of work,” Amanda observes.
Learning new skills
Election officials say that an additional benefit of having a new website is that it’s given them opportunities to develop new skills.
Although she admits that she sometimes has to ask for help, Kathy believes that publishing and updating content online “is getting easier the more I work with the site.” She appreciates that maintaining the site pushes her to learn new things, and she hopes to continue learning.
In Inyo County, Kammi has had the same experience; she says that working on the site has helped her feel more confident about her tech skills.
For instance, she says there was a time when she made a mistake and inadvertently deleted some important content. A voter called her to point out the problem, and it could have been a stressful situation, but Kammi persevered.
“Because I had done regular back-ups of the website content,” she explains, “I was able to access the backup html and copy and paste the correct information.” She corrected her mistake in just a few minutes, and the best part, she says, was that “We figured out how to do it on our own! Yay, us!”
Although these election websites have had a positive impact on their offices and communities, the election officials have ambitions to make them even better in the future.
For example, Amanda says that she’d like to “add widgets to the white space on the site.” Explaining that the Ohio Secretary of State has produced widgets to help votes find election content, Amanda is hoping to use them in Carroll County as additional portals to information.
Similarly, Kathy is hoping to enhance the election results on her site. “My favorite thing about the website is that you can look at present and past election results,” she says, but for future elections, she’d like to add “a live return of results where people can go to check as the precincts come in on election night.”
We’re confident that with a little time and effort, Amanda and Kathy will be able to achieve these goals in the months to come.
With their websites, Amanda, Kathy, and Kammi are part of a learning community of election officials who are using technology to improve the voting experience in their counties. Combining their websites with their growing tech skills, they’re expanding public service while also, as Kammi says, “making our office more efficient.”
Do you know an election official who might benefit from a new election website? Tell them about CTCL’s election website template and training.
How has your election website impacted your office and community? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to tell your story.