Wilmington company aims to improve elections

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Charles Davis, chief financial officer at Sivad Business Solutions, maker of Easy Vote products. Photo by Ben Brown.
Charles Davis, chief financial officer at Sivad Business Solutions, maker of Easy Vote products. Photo by Ben Brown.

Voter turnout may be anemic; it may break records. At any rate, each election cycle is a tedious to-do behind the scenes, always.

Keeping up with poll workers, maintaining ballot machines, handling all that campaign finance reporting. It’s a great and time-consuming responsibility for elections offices, says a Wilmington-based software development company working toward faster and better-tuned elections management.

“We are in what we have termed the ‘elections process market,'” said Charles Davis, chief financial officer for Sivad Business Solutions, whose Easy Vote products are now at work in more than 75 voting jurisdictions–cities, counties, states–in the U.S., including the City of Atlanta, Georgia.

Easy Vote doesn’t directly touch the voter, but Davis said the efficiencies it affords the elections process ripple out to benefit all.

The applications are on the back end. For one, residents who want to run for office, in many jurisdictions, including New Hanover County, currently have to appear in person at the elections office to fill out forms and pay their filing fees. Davis said one of his company’s products enables the candidate to do it all from home instead, in the middle of the night if he or she wanted to, via Internet-connected computer. The information can be filed with the county and state “seamlessly,” said the CFO, noting that product is currently in use in Georgia.

Another module handles voter verification by scanning the voter’s driver’s license or other ID and quickly readying the voter’s materials. The company says the effect is shorter lines, elimination of human data entry flubs and a faster, more confident process.

Easy Vote also has programs to help elections offices keep track of hardware and maintenance as well as human resources–such as the scores of poll workers out there.

That latter product, EasyPollWorker, allows elections officials to manage their poll workers in a single interface. They can review each poll worker’s performance and report when he or she shows up and leaves the assigned polling place.

Tardy poll workers were among problems during the June 10 primaries in Richland County, South Carolina, according to Cola Daily, a sister publication of Port City Daily. Due to limited voter interest in the off-year, the poll worker problem didn’t affect voter lines terribly, but “We wouldn’t want something like this to happen if we were having a major election,” Samuel Selph, Richland County’s interim elections director, was quoted as saying.

(Malfunctioning voting machines were also in the mix, Cola Daily reported.)

Davis, who has lived in Wilmington 15 years, said the company saw its first roll-out in the 2010 election cycle, starting in Georgia, and has added numerous jurisdictions since. It’s currently working on its push into North Carolina (which will implement a voter ID requirement in 2016). California, Oregon, Oklahoma and others far and wide are on the table.

“We think there’s a national play,” said Davis, who was in Washington, D.C., this past week pitching to venture capitalists. “We have the technology. It’s proven in the market.”

Deidre Holden, elections supervisor in Paulding County, Georgia (part of the Atlanta metro area), raved over the company in a release about its campaign finance product. “EasyFile is one of the best programs I have ever worked with,” she said. “It is easy, efficient and user friendly for all.”

While Easy Vote does have some competitors peddling variations of products, Davis claims his company is winning clients per its thoroughness, ease of use and affordability.

While it works its expansions, Easy Vote has set up an office in the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) on South College Road. Davis said he enjoys the synergy with other entrepreneurs at the facility, which offers low-cost workspace to locally based startups and energetic businesses, most of which are tech-focused and tracked to grow Wilmington’s footprint on the innovation scene.

Related story: CIE poised to make Wilmington an innovation beacon, director says

Davis said he hopes Easy Vote’s advancements help to heal and strengthen the public’s confidence in the elections system–perhaps enough so that one day we’ll cast our ballots online.

“We won’t be there anytime soon,” he assured, pointing out the country’s limited faith not only in elections but also online security. The concept of voting online, with all the potential manipulations and glitches imagined, aren’t well stomached.

“What we’re trying to do,” Davis said, “is help solve those issues now through looking at the process of running elections and using technology, software, to help solve these problems.”

Ben Brown is a news reporter at Port City Daily. Reach him at ben.b@hometownwilmington.com or (910) 772-6335. On Twitter: @benbrownmedia