Grand Rapids-based mail service provider Kent Communications Inc. is the first company in Michigan to work with local election officials to add a new layer of integrity and accountability to the vote-by-mail process.
The product, TrackMIBallot, uses a service from the United States Postal Service called Informed Visibility to track each piece of ballot mail as it travels through the postal system.
So far, four municipalities have signed on to use TrackMIBallot in upcoming elections: city of Walker, city of Lansing, Grand Rapids Township and Cannon Township.
“TrackMIBallot is designed to help Michigan’s clerks run the safest, most transparent absent voter election in history,” said Brian Quist, TrackMIBallot founder and president of KCI. “TrackMIBallot allows election officials to track every piece of mail from the voter and back again with a real-time UPS/FedEx-style tracking system. We are excited to be the first to market with this product that will allow a new level of transparency for voters and election officials.”
Voting officials will be able to see when ballots are being delivered to voters and to look up inquiries when a voter is wondering where their ballot is. The system also is capable of giving each voter their own secure web link where they can track their own ballot.
When the ballot is placed back into the mail by the voter, TrackMIBallot will identify and track that ballot as it enters the postal mail stream, so the voter can be sure the Postal Service has the ballot and is delivering it. The TrackMIBallot system also can let officials know that a ballot was put in the mail before the mailing deadline and confirm that each ballot traveled through the Postal Service.
The product is available in two tiers: TrackMIBallot and TrackMIBallot Premium. The Premium offering provides full-service, round-trip mail pickup, sorting and delivery at the discounted nonprofit rate and will be offered to the central and West Michigan counties of Kent, Muskegon, Ottawa, Ingham, Ionia, Newaygo, Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Kalamazoo.
The city of Walker was one of the first municipalities to sign on with TrackMIBallot with the transparency factor being a selling point.
“This tool will be a great benefit to voters by giving them the opportunity to track their ballot to its destination,” Walker City Clerk Sarah Bydalek said.
Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk, said his municipality also benefitted from TrackMIBallot.
“This is a fabulous tool to help us improve the voting process. I have already used it to track down several post office issues and help get ballots in the voters’ hands. I can see this quickly becoming a must-have for every community,” Swope said.
Although the product is aimed at election officials, citizens also ca request that their municipality use a vote-by-mail tracking service by contacting their local clerk.