Constituents of Cobb County, Ga., who are voting early are able to check their phone and find out how long the wait is at their polling station.
Jennifer Lana, GIS Manager of Cobb County, said that this new system of communicating wait times is far less tedious than its predecessor. In the past, poll workers would call or email the Cobb County office and report the wait time at their assigned station. The office administrator would type the information into the county webpage. This process’s lag time resulted in inaccurate wait time announcements. Lana and her team used an ArcGIS Web mapping platform and the Collector app, both tools from GIS software company Esri, to create a map with frequent and accurate time updates.
The Collector app allows poll workers to share wait time data from their phones. Cobb County poll workers update the wait times at least four times a day, according to the story map. The map has featured information for two of its early voting stations since Oct. 17. On Oct. 31, the site began to offer information for nine additional stations. People can view the live story map from any device, including their phones.
“We’re really excited to offer this to our citizens. We’re committed to providing this information,” Lana said. “We wanted to encourage participation. Every election is important.”
Cobb County, located northwest of Atlanta, has a total population of 688,078. Of those, 423,402 are registered voters. Early voting, a practice Georgia started in 2003, is popular in Cobb County. Lana said that 49.2 percent of Georgians voted early in the 2012 presidential election, and that she and her peers expect that number to increase for this election.
As of Oct. 28, the voting station wait time story map had been viewed 23,956 times, Lana said. She also said that, by Election Day, voters will not have to wait very long because so many people take advantage of the early voting system.
“Our citizens love it. There are no lines.” Lana said. “We’re really proud of this.”
Mobile tools, particularly ones involving maps, are part of a greater trend among government agencies seeking to modernize their services, according to Christian Carlson, director of State, Local, and Provincial Government at Esri. He said that while Esri’s suite of election tools caters to poll workers and constituents concerned about lines, local governments also release tools geared toward other services, such as police officers. Carlson also said the map is a key feature of many government tools because it allows people to view which services are near them at any given time.
“We’re really working hard with the user community to make a set of solutions for government that provides services to them and the citizens. It’s representative of what we’re going to see more and more,” Carlson said. “The map is becoming the user interface.”