April 19, 2012
By Matt Gallagher, Red Herring
Using Internet and other technology, Everyone Counts reinvents the cast of the ballot. The company strives to bring elections to any Internet device or phone to make voting as easy as Facebook. And it works. When the State of Oregon used Everyone Counts to make it possible to vote from an iPad, voter participation went up 1,500 percent. When the Swindon Borough Council in the UK conducted an independent poll of the 2007 election facilitated by Everyone Counts’ software, 25 percent of participants voted online, and 35 percent of those who did said they wouldn’t have voted otherwise.
The company delivers an SAAS voting platform that allows voters to independently cast votes via any computer or Internet connection, any phone whether mobile or landline, or email or fax for regions that lack sufficient legislation for online voting.
Everyone Counts also enables voting precincts to establish secure voting units using iPads, notebooks and PCs, much cheaper than the $7,000 electronic voting machines typically used that only have a shelf-life of 10 years. Plus, governments also have the option to then use the devices in schools and libraries when elections aren’t being held.
The company’s solutions save governments typically 30 to 50 percent, and can be quickly established, sometimes in as little as a few days. When a company serving El Paso County in Colorado failed to meet compliance standards, Everyone Counts provided a solution in less than two days. The company regularly organizes special elections in 30 to 60 days.
Security is naturally a concern. From the beginning of its inception, Everyone Counts formed a team of both election experts and IT security and Internet specialists to ensure the systems met the highest security standards. The systems are protected through multiple security levels, including military encryption for every ballot and ballot box, meeting the highest security standards required by banks or top secret government sites.
"Governments adopt more slowly than others, and that has helped us to refine really state of the art solutions,” said Lori Steele, CEO of Everyone Counts. “There’s no reason everyone shouldn’t have the ability to use state of the art online systems.”
The company’s systems have been audited by PWC, Deloitte, as well as multiple divisions of the Department of Defense. Though governments had been slow to adopt the technology, business is rapidly picking up as the technology and the integrity of the security becomes more accepted. The company currently is running 70 percent of the SAAS election procurements in the US, including three full states and the largest counties in another four states.
The company’s customers include Oregon; Florida; Washington; Denver, Colorado; West Virginia; City of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; El Paso County, Colorado; Utah, New South Wales, Australia, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The company will be the exclusive electronic voting system for the Academy Awards in 2013.
It was the flexibility of the technology that proved to be its biggest selling point, stated Steve Trout, state election director for Oregon, which implemented the company’s machines.
“The Everyone Counts system will work with many different pieces of hardware which is very beneficial since many people that have special needs have their own assistive devices on their own computer systems,” Trout said. “With the E1C solution people can mark their ballots using whatever tools they have on their own, or they can use a tablet, laptop or personal computer provided by election officials which gives us more flexibility. We have learned that there is not a one size fits all solution for voters with special needs and the E1C solution allows us to use many different pieces of hardware to serve their needs instead of relying on just one.”
Steele sees the Presidential election of 2012 as the tipping point, and foresees massive adoption of the platform in the next two to four years. Steele noted that 20 percent of US voters voted through registered mail in 2004, and 35 percent in 2008, with larger percentages projected for 2012 and beyond. Steele thinks the company’s technology could be handling half of that amount by 2016.
“I think we’ll be that seven year overnight success,” Steele joked. “It’s been a long hard battle, but things are turning our way.”
As SAAS election solutions begin to catch on, the company’s greatest concern is that governments understand the risks involved, Steele said. Everyone Counts is the only company with 100 percent accuracy, while all of its competitors have experienced failure of some kind along the way, she added.
“Not just anyone can do this,” Steele said. “As governments realize that SAAS online models work, we need them to remember that experience and the highest integrity in solutions are required. Voting is too important. We no longer see a barrier to adoption, but we need to work to remain the industry leader.”