Workers at the Camden County Elections and Archive Center demonstrate how a high-tech ballot sorting machine helps speed their work while adding layers of reliability for voters.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 12, 2020
Three weeks ahead of Election Day, the Camden County Elections and Archive Center is a flurry of activity.
Voters arrive by the carload, dropping off their mail-in ballots, voting in person at desktop centers, or resolving other concerns.
Beyond the lobby at the freestanding building in Blackwood is a vast warehouse within which the guts of the process are already churning, as thousands of ballots are starting to pile up.
This year’s presidential election is anticipated to bring with it a 60-to-70-percent increase in ballots cast, the bulk of which will be submitted by mail. County election officials have been given a 10-day head start on canvassing the ballots for this election only, but with some 370,000 votes expected, they’re facing a dramatic increase in their normal workload.
“The process of what we do is very time-consuming,” said Michele Liccketto, a mail-in ballot technician who’s worked for the county board of elections for the past nine years.
In every year prior to this, those ballots were hand-sorted, a process made longer by the physical work of removing ballots from their exterior envelopes and flattening them for processing.
But for 2020, Camden County has rolled out a new piece of high-end technology designed to expedite the work threefold while adding a layer of security.
On Friday, election officials showed off the new, $250,000 machine, a Tritek Correct-Elect ballot processor.
The high-speed sorting device scans the bar codes on each ballot, organizing them by municipality, and logs a timestamp of when each batch was run.
It also photographs the signatures on the exterior of every ballot envelope, creating a digital image to which officials can refer when verifying voter signatures without having to retrieve the physical envelope.
The new device will help election officials quickly sort hundreds of thousands of ballots, said Sarah Booker, Republican Administrator at the Camden County Board of Elections. That means that county officials “are prepared to certify [election results]on time,” she said. The state deadline is November 20.
“It’s going to be huge for us keeping up with volume,” Booker said.
Security of the ballots, collection boxes, voting equipment, and the sorting machine itself is a top priority for voters, and election officials take it seriously.
Everything in the warehouse is under lock and key, only four of which exist, and the entire operation is under bipartisan supervision.
“We will process every ballot that comes in,” Liccketto said.
“Every vote counts to us.”
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