Easy polling place reporting

A free, web-based spreadsheet to collect election information from every polling place

Publishing results on election night is stressful — candidates want to know if their campaign was successful, journalists want to write a story, and voters like to see if they picked a winner … and they all want to know now!

Many election offices are slow to post results because their poll workers have to call in or, in some cases, drive in the election results. To overcome these challenges, election officials have come up with a low-cost solution that not only helps with the speed of election results, but also the accuracy of their ballot reconciliation forms.

Election officials are using Google Sheets, a free, web-based spreadsheet that is similar in functionality to Microsoft Excel.

What you'll need

  • Computer or mobile device with internet access in each polling place
  • Google/Gmail account for each polling place

Table of contents

  1. Setting up Gmail accounts
  2. Opening Google Drive

Setting up Google accounts

Before you create a spreadsheet, you need to set up your Google infrastructure. This includes creating a free Google, or Gmail, account for your election office and for your poll workers who will be inputting data on Election Day.

The Gmail accounts will identify the users in your spreadsheet. For this reason, we recommend using the Gmail accounts for election office purposes only.

  1. Go to www.accounts.google.com/SignUp and create your election office Gmail account.
  2. Next, create an email address for each polling place.
    Use a standardized naming convention. For example: [PollingPlaceName-PollingPlaceNumber]@gmail.com. Use a standardized password, too.
  3. Keep each polling place’s Gmail address and password in a printed list for safekeeping.

Opening Google Drive

Google Drive is free cloud storage for your files, including Google Sheets. Your Drive account is associated with your Gmail account, so a quick way to get to Drive is through your Gmail account.

A user finds Google Drive by clicking the apps icon in the top right corner

If you are logged into your Gmail account, you can quickly get to your Google Drive and other Google apps

  1. Log into your office Gmail account.
  2. In the upper right corner, click the apps icon to show the apps drop-down menu.
  3. Click Drive. If you don’t see Drive, click More at the bottom of the drop-down menu.

Table of contents

  1. Learning about the spreadsheet template
  2. Copying the template
  3. Customizing your spreadsheet
  4. Sharing your spreadsheet with poll workers

Learning about the template

To get you started, we’ve created a Google Sheets template for polling place reporting. We suggest using one spreadsheet per polling place. Once you copy the template to your Drive, you will need to generate an additional copy for each polling place.

The spreadsheet template has three tabs:

  • Reconcile – a ballot reconciliation sheet for opening and closing inventory at the polling place
  • Turnout – a simple way to document voter turnout in 2-hour intervals
  • Results – a place to input numbers from the tabulator tape(s) on election night
The template already includes formulas that calculate totals for candidates in each race (Results tab) and totals for ballots used and unused (Reconcile tab). If you are familiar with Microsoft Excel, you will notice similar functionality in Google Sheets. You can edit and format cells and use popular formulas like =SUM.

In the following sections we will walk you through how to copy and customize the template for one of your polling places.

Copying the spreadsheet template

The template will get you started with your own spreadsheet, and then you can edit it to fit your jurisdiction.

  1. Go to the Easy Polling Place Reporting Template (Google Sheet).
  2. If you are logged into your Gmail account, you can simply click File, then select Make a copy…, and the template will be copied to your Drive folder.
  3. If you are not logged into your Gmail account, in the upper left corner, you can click File, then select Download as, and click Microsoft Excel.

    A user can select File in the upper left corner to open a drop-down menu, then select Download as Microsoft Excel.

    Download the template as a Microsoft Excel file

  4. Now that you have the spreadsheet in Excel format, you can upload it to your Drive folder.
  5. Once the Excel Spreadsheet is in Drive, open it as a Google Sheet by right-clicking on the Excel file, then select Open with, and click Google Sheets.

    A user can open the Microsoft Excel file as a Google Sheet

    You’ll have both the Excel version and the Google Sheet version of the template in your Drive

Customizing the spreadsheet template

Now that you have the Google Sheet in your Drive, you can customize it to fit your needs.

Start by renaming the copy of the template to the name of one of your polling places.

Open the first tab, Reconcile

  1. Edit the top cell to show the name of the polling place.
  2. Change the cells so they’re customized for how your office runs elections. Delete any cells that do not apply to your jurisdiction. Add the cells that you need. For example, you may not use a touchscreen voting machine. In this case, you can delete the row of cells for the touchscreen.
  3. Insert closing-time formulas that help you and your poll workers quickly assess that all paper ballots are accounted for. For example, a =SUM formula that totals:
    • the number of votes cast on the optical scanner
    • the number of provisional envelopes completed
    • the number of spoiled ballots
    • the number of unused ballots
  4. Double-check your formulas.

Open the second tab, Turnout

  1. Edit the top cell to show the name of the polling place.
  2. Change the cells to include the information that you want to collect at the times you want to collect it.

Open the third tab, Results

  1. Edit the top cell to show the name of the polling place.
  2. Change the cells to show ONLY the races and candidate names that will be voted on at that polling place. If you are creating a spreadsheet for your “Absentee-by-mail polling place,” however, it should include all races and candidates.
  3. Remove the touchscreen rows if your jurisdiction only uses  paper ballots.
  4. Double-check your formulas.

After you have customized a spreadsheet for one polling place, you can make a copy of it and then edit the copy for the next polling place so it shows the races, candidates, and polling place name specific to that polling place. Repeat until all polling places have a spreadsheet.

You can add more tabs to your spreadsheet if you want to collect additional information from your polling places. For example, you may want to add a tab to capture voter wait times throughout the day. Learn more about measuring voter wait times using a free app.

Sharing your spreadsheet

Once your spreadsheet has all the information for each of your polling places and you’ve double-checked your formulas, you can share the relevant spreadsheet with each of your trained poll workers.

A user can enter an email address that they want to share their spreadsheet with.

Enter your polling place email address to share the spreadsheet with your trained poll worker

  1. Go to your Google Drive and select one of your reporting spreadsheets.
  2. When the spreadsheet opens, in the upper right corner, click Share.
  3. In the pop-up box, enter the Gmail address of the polling place you want to share the spreadsheet with. For example: [PollingPlaceName-PollingPlaceNumber]@gmail.com.
  4. Click Done.