As people across the country head to the polls over the next few months, a concern on many minds is how to stay safe while voting. With the COVID-19 pandemic surging nationwide, what can election officials do to ensure everyone has the ability to vote without risking their health?
Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., The Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and chair of the UF Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), has created a ticketing system to help voters maintain social distancing while exercising their right to vote. Dr. Gilbert, who has been conducting research on elections for more than 15 years, saw a need down to the local level and filled it.
“Everyone wants to feel safe while they are casting their vote,” he said. “The inLine Ticketing System lowers voters’ risk of contracting COVID-19 by reducing the length of lines and reducing the amount of time people need to stand close to others.”
After identifying the concerns of sending thousands to the polls during a pandemic, Dr. Gilbert started working on an easy-to-use system that allows poll workers to hand out tickets to voters waiting in line. These tickets are printed out on an as-needed-basis and given to voters as the lines get long. Each ticket is printed with a QR code, along with a date and time to return for voting in English and Spanish. As voters return at their designated time, the QR code is scanned, and they proceed to vote.
Dr. Gilbert said he hopes this app will encourage voters to participate in this year’s election.
“The inLine Ticketing System takes the risk out of waiting in line because your ticket holds your place,” he said. “Voters can keep their distance and come back at their designated time to vote as they normally would.”
The inLine Ticketing System has many applications beyond voting, such as reducing lines at COVID-19 testing sites.
Dr. Gilbert has been working on securing elections for more than a decade. In 2003, Dr. Gilbert and his research team developed Prime lll, the “first open-source universal design” voting system that accommodates persons with and without disabilities and provides a paper printout of the ballot.
Earlier this year, Dr. Gilbert testified as an expert witness regarding election security during a hearing by the House Administration Committee. He shared his expertise in voting system security, accessibility and usability.
Dr. Gilbert concluded in his testimony in January with, “As a nation, we have the capacity to build an elections system for the future but doing so requires focused attention from citizens; federal, state, and local governments; election administrators, and innovators in the academy and industry. It also requires a commitment of appropriate resources. Representative democracy only works if all eligible citizens can participate in elections and be confident that their ballots have been accurately cast, counted, and tabulated.”
For more information on how the app works, to view a video demo and to download the app, visit the inLine Ticketing System website.
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Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering