Faster, more accurate election results in Hardin County, Iowa

Three old-fashioned pay phones.

Election Day doesn’t end when the polls close. That’s when the important work of calculating election results and reporting them to the public begins.

Voters want to see the impact of their participation. Candidates are eager to see their prospects for victory. And local media representatives want facts for the election stories that they’re working on.

Because it’s an important and demanding task, election officials want to make sure they get it done quickly and get it done right. And a few years ago, administrators in Hardin County, Iowa decided that the old way of reporting election night results just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

“We find that in the information age,” explains County Auditor Jessica Lara, “voters are wanting results as soon as polls close.”

That’s why they turned to Google Sheets, the program that the Easy Polling Place Reporting tool is built upon.

Jessica and her staff were looking for a way to add speed without sacrificing any accuracy. In the past, she says, “our tabulating software would require all precincts to deliver the memory cards to our central location before results could be tallied and printed on reports. We needed something faster that did not involve the delay in hand delivering the results cards. This is how we developed our Election Results spreadsheet.”

Spreadsheet lists mayoral candidates and the number of votes for each

Hardin County’s results spreadsheet is simple and easy to read

Setting up the results spreadsheet takes some time, but once it’s ready, putting it to use is easy, as Jessica explains: “On election night, once the polls close, the tabulators print paper results at each of our polling locations. The chairperson at each location then phones in the results to the Auditor’s office (Commissioner of Elections) and the information for each race including over/under and total number of voters. We use these numbers to manually proof that the numbers were heard and written down accurately. One employee then enters the results into the spreadsheet. Google Docs is continually updated every two to four minutes, so the results are nearly immediate in release.”

For the most part, working with Google Sheets requires the same kind of caution and attention to detail that results reporting normally demands. And as always, you should include an “unofficial results” disclaimer until canvassing can be done to verify results officially.

Using Google Sheets, Hardin County has earned a reputation for speed and accuracy in Iowa elections.

“Two years ago,” Jessica says with pride, “we were able to report results to the public in less than 11 minutes after the polls closed. We had reporters from radio stations that called to thank us for being so prompt!”

Have you been searching for a smarter way to handle results on election night? Consider how the Easy Polling Place Reporting tool could help ease the stress in your election office after the polls close.