VALDOSTA — Georgians voting Nov. 3 will be able to see poll wait times in real time.
A new elections efficiency software named Esri will be used in every county across the Peach State for the presidential election in November.
The Esri system is divided into two programs called "election assistant" (public can view) and "performance dashboard" (for election officials use only), election officials said.
The elections assistant program will provide real-time updates (every 30 minutes or so) on wait times at polling locations across each county.
Once the three weeks of early voting begin prior to Election Day, residents can go to the URL and view a map of the state that can magnify their county and find out how long the wait to vote will be. The URL is not accessible to the public before early voting starts.
“Well, for voters, they can look at either early voting which is up here or their polling place and see what the wait time is and decide when to go," said Deb Cox, Lowndes County supervisor of election. "I mean you can’t beat that. Can’t get any better than that.”
State election officials will monitor wait times and can alert counties where long lines have formed, Cox said.
“It gives you an increased level of accountability for all counties which is a good thing. Everything is totally transparent in public. That’s a positive.”
Elections officials can view and respond to the election assistant map but also can utilize the performance dashboard for updates about issues at polling locations. Once a problem is known, a technician can go to the location and provide repair process updates as they work.
“Most of the time when we have a presidential (election), we only have 10 phone lines here. And those phone lines get filled up, and they start ringing and they don’t stop all day long. We give the poll workers our cellphone numbers as backup but a lot of times, that’s busy, too," Cox said. "So, this will provide a third method of communication in case they need it which is kind of nice. Plus, we’ll be able to monitor the situation over time.”
Cox said she also likes another timesaving feature of the system – technicians can be alerted by the system itself and sent to polling locations to fix problems, even before elections officials know there’s an issue. More time for elections officials should mean more efficient elections in theory.
The theory has held up so far. Lowndes County was one of the four counties to test Esri's software earlier this year.
“We tested it. It worked beautifully,” she said. “I mean no hiccups or anything, but it was only in four counties.”
And if both programs fail? Well, the election would proceed the same way as past elections.
The way Cox sees it, these new programs can only improve the way elections are held throughout the county and the state.
“How can it not be (helpful)?” she said. “More information is always better. Transparency is always better.”