W MI company helps clerks, voters track absentee ballots

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — As mail-in voting becomes increasingly popular, a West Michigan company has launched technology to make sure your vote is secure by tracking your ballots.

“TrackMIBallot is a system where clerks can track election mail from the clerk’s office to the voter and from the voter back to the clerk’s office,” Kent Communications, Inc. President Brian Quist said.

KCI, a Grand Rapids-based mail service provider, launched the technology ahead of the Aug. 4 primary, tracking mail-in ballots for the cities of Lansing and Walker.

“There’s been a lot of talk about election irregularities with vote by mail and what our system does is make it 100% trackable so we take all of that worry out with the postal service,” Quist said.

Quist said he came up with the idea while watching election coverage earlier this year.

“I was sitting in quarantine watching the disaster that was an election in Wisconsin and I thought we could do better in Michigan,” he said.

Inside TrackMIBallot in Kentwood on Aug. 4, 2020.

Based out of a warehouse in Kentwood, the TrackMIBallot technology assigns a barcode to the outside of the envelope containing an empty ballot. The barcode allows election officials and the voter to track its every move until the blank ballot arrives at the person’s doorstep. Once the completed ballot gets sent back out in the mail, the barcode allows election officials and the voter to track its course, ensuring it arrives at the clerk’s office in time to be counted.

Quist said the technology is not only efficient, but also secure. The contents of the ballot are never shown throughout the process.

With a successful trial run in the books, Walker City Clerk Sarah Bydalek said the feature has been reassuring to voters.

“Being able to track their ballot it gives them the capability of knowing that we received their ballot,” Bydalek said.

Inside TrackMIBallot in Kentwood on Aug. 4, 2020.

Quist said their software has already proven its purpose after a batch of ballots went missing leading up to the Aug. 4 primary.

“We knew there were some missing ballots and we tracked that tray to Pontiac,” he said. “We were actually able to spoil the ballots in that tray; that is, the clerk can go into their system and say those ballots can’t be voted. Then the clerk reprinted those ballots … and got them to the voter in time, so it’s a great story of how the system works.”

Heading into the general election in November, Quist hopes to roll out the software statewide, making it available to any interested municipalities in Michigan. Quist said Grand Rapids Township and Cannon Township have already signed on.