Client profile

Kane County is one of the largest counties in Illinois with a population of 535,000 people and over 320,000 registered voters.

The County Clerk is responsible for overseeing and safeguarding elections including mail-in ballot printing and mailing and return processing, validation and counting.

During the 2020 general election, the county mailed 95,000 mail ballots–a dramatic increase over prior years.

Overview

Voting by mail is on the rise throughout the country and the State of Illinois is no exception. With Illinois planning to expand “no excuse” absentee ballots, Kane County began exploring ways to process the anticipated increase in mail-in ballot volume. While preparing absentee ballots manually served the county well over the years, they needed more efficient printing, mail ballot assembly and ballot sorting solutions to cost-effectively process higher volumes. At their current volume, the process took a minimum of 6 people over 10,000 hours to manually process the mail-in ballots. Additionally, Kane County needed to be able to ensure the ballots were produced accurately and be able to provide that information to the electorate for complete transparency.

“We were looking for a total package. We did a lot of research exploring various automated mail ballot processing options and the BlueCrest Relia-Vote solution offered the most comprehensive solution,”

John Cunningham, Kane County Clerk, Illinois

Business challenge

With the state looking to expand the use of “no-excuse” for absentee voting, it was anticipated the volume would exceed capabilities to manually process the ballots. “Vote-by-Mail is coming, and I needed to get ahead of the curve and take advantage of funding available through the CARES Act” said John “Jack” Cunningham, Kane County Clerk. Kane County needed an automated mail ballot processing solution that would ensure that the correct ballot was sent to the registered voter on time and be able to support any audit compliance. It needed to:

  • Automate the manual processing of mail-in ballots with a solution that had enough productivity to meet the growing mail-in volume and short turn-around time to comply with state and federal laws.
  • Ensure mail ballot packet integrity verifying the contents of the mail ballot were accurate.
  • Optimize postage to reduce costs.
  • Offer tracking of ballot packets to provide full transparency to electorate as well as an audit trail if ever the status of mail-in ballot was in question.
  • Process inbound ballots with speed and accuracy to ensure election results would be available in a timely manner.

“It’s the best equipment out there and the most cost-effective when you consider the labor and postage savings.” 

John Cunningham, Kane County Clerk, Illinois

Solution

Kane County turned to Relia-Vote for a complete Vote-by-Mail solution. “We were looking for a total package. We did a lot of research exploring various mail ballot processing options and Relia-Vote offered the most comprehensive solution,” said Cunningham. The Relia-Vote solution specialist worked with Kane County to help map out the building blocks for a full end-to-end, high-integrity ballot processing solution for preparing outbound and inbound ballots.

Kane County chose the Relia-Vote Mailstream Evolution inserter, featuring file-based processing, for accurate assembly, insertion and addressing mail ballot packages. They also transitioned from mailing the ballot in a 1st-class flat envelope to a USPS, automation compatible letter-sized ballot envelope. This helped to significantly reduce postage costs for both outbound and inbound mailing. Relia-Vote Ballot Manager software helped to prepare the ballots for accurate inserting by adding a unique barcode to each ballot type, all while producing an audit file that ensured all mail ballots were completed with accuracy.

Inbound validation and sorting by precinct was a vital function for Kane County. “You don’t want to be the last precinct to report results on election night,” said Cunningham. The Relia-Vote Vantage Sorter offered the fast processing speed needed to sort the ballots quickly to 291 precincts and growing. Additionally, it streamlined the envelope validation process by utilizing camera technology to speed up signature comparison from the outside of the ballot envelope needed for manual signature verification. It also included a selective ballot envelope opening to safely and efficiently open envelopes during the sorting process.

To ensure there were no issues during the election, Kane County took advantage of BlueCrest Global Service and Support to provide on-site coverage. “BlueCrest bent over backwards to accommodate us and I could not have asked for more,” added Cunningham.

In 2021 Kane County purchased BlueCrest’s new EvoluJet printing system to complete the final phase of the Relia-Vote end-to-end solution. This addition will allow the county to print their own ballots in future elections, resulting in better control and timeliness of ballot availability while also reducing ballot costs.

“BlueCrest bent over backwards to accommodate us and I could not have asked for more.”

John Cunningham, Kane County Clerk, Illinois

Benefits

As a result of implementing the BlueCrest Relia-Vote solution, the 2020 general election was a success for Kane County. “Our results were ready on the day of the election,” said Cunningham. They were are able to monitor, track and report on ballot status gaining voter trust in the process which is important for the outcome of every election. “With the research that Kane County Team did, we have validated that it’s the best equipment out there and the most cost-effective when you consider the labor and postage savings,” said Cunningham.

For the 2020 election season, the BlueCrest Relia-Vote solution helped Kane County to:

  • Improve productivity allowing the county to securely process both outgoing and incoming ballots of around 95,000 ballots, a 10-fold increase from the 2016 election.
  • Achieve transparency and compliance using ballot packet content verification and mail tracking. Plus, the ability to provide tracking information to the electorate for improved voter confidence.
  • Reduce labor costs saving hundreds of thousands of dollars with automation over manual processes by eliminating manual labor for processing mail-in ballots.
  • Save postage costs of approximately $200,000 moving away from 1st class flats to letter-sized envelopes.


The BlueCrest Relia-Vote solutions were essential to helping Kane County achieve their goals for processing the higher volumes of Vote-by-Mail. “The 2020 election helped us prove the technology and I am now in the process of helping other election officials to consider BlueCrest Relia-Vote solutions to meet their Vote-by-Mail processing needs,” added Cunningham.

Technology used

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