LiveView Technologies' video streaming service safeguarded ballot boxes in Anne Arundel County, MD
In typical times, county election officials start preparing for presidential elections one year in advance. But 2020 was hardly typical, which meant election officials in counties across the country had to get creative—quickly.
In Anne Arundel County, MD, for example, officials like David Garreis had to hatch a plan in a matter of weeks when the state announced in March that ballot drop boxes for the upcoming primary had to be secured with 24/7 monitoring.
“This was a unique year. Because of COVID-19, we had to switch to vote by mail and roll out drop boxes for the primary in June,” said Garreis, deputy director of the Anne Arundel County Board of Elections. “We got the governor’s proclamation [about monitoring the drop boxes] and within two weeks, I was researching options. By April 1, I was talking to vendors.”
Officials in other areas, like nearby Baltimore City, decided to take the traditional route—round the clock police monitoring. But Garreis was convinced more cost-effective and logistically controlled options were available.
With 32 voting locations for the presidential election, they would have needed at least 32 people, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 45 days. And the cost of that kind of surveillance adds up quickly.
Baltimore City, for example, stationed police officers and security guards at each of their polling locations—to the tune of more than $800,000. With about 400,000 voters, Anne Arundel County is about the same size, which means the cost of human monitoring would have been comparable.
Once Garreis started researching video surveillance solutions, he realized the challenges presented by some services. One vendor wanted to tap into the power source at each voting location, while another needed to permanently attach fixtures to the buildings.
“That created another layer of bureaucracy,” said Garreis, emphasizing that with 32 different locations, coordinating with each facility would have added even more time and complication.
But LVT’s Omni Video System solution includes solar-powered trailers and a battery bank capacity of up to 460AH, which gave Anne Arundel an option that could be totally independent of a building’s power source. And, with a mobile, camera-mounted setup, LiveView Technologies' option provided the flexibility election officials needed to accommodate different environments and layouts at each of the locations, from schools to churches to fire halls.
“LiveView Technologies was quick to come up with a solution that really worked,” said Garreis. “And the flexibility and adaptability of the system is kind of perfect for what we were doing. Especially with COVID-19, we had to deal with a lot of factors and adjust on the fly. Having something so versatile and flexible alleviated a lot of the logistical problems you have to deal with when you plan for an election.”
Equally important? The LVT solution cost 84% less than 24/7 human monitoring.
LVT’s cloud-based platform also offered another feature that helped close the deal: a desktop- and mobile-accessible portal that let officials check live video feeds of each of the locations at any time.
“The portal was really appealing to us. You could toggle between the different feeds from your desk. That really sold us,” said Garreis. “Other services required you to be in touch with the company.”
In short order, the election board approved the LVT option and, ultimately, secured a grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to cover the entire cost of the technology. For the primary in June, LVT supplied systems for eight voting locations and for the presidential election in November, the company powered security for 32 locations across Anne Arundel county.
While the exact setup varied, Garreis said the flexibility of the system meant that officials could capture the voting box, entrance and lines at each location, regardless of its layout. And the LVT preset feature and 25x high-power optical zoom enabled them to focus on critical activity.
“The nice part about the preset is that it would save exactly the angle and zoom level of the camera itself so that once you found that perfect view, you were able to get exactly the same image every single time,” said Garreis.
At each location, blinking lights indicated that the security cameras were filming. And officials pre-recorded a message that played every 10 minutes to let people know the boxes were open and available, and to remind voters to maintain social distancing.
Once the election was underway, the cameras proved to be an effective deterrent for disruptive and damaging behavior. While some voting locations experienced vandalism and violent activity, Anne Arundel County reported zero cases of vandalism or security incidents.
“The crowds were calm. We didn’t have any altercations,” Garreis said. “Because the cameras were so visible, it discouraged people from instigating anything.”
The cameras—and the easily-accessible live video feed—also helped election officials respond to any on-the-ground issues in real-time, as well as manage wait times.
“We discovered that where we put the cameras enabled us to see both the drop boxes and the entrance, so it gave us a really convenient way to manage the lines and parking lines,” Garreis said.
Given the cameras’ success in the 2020 election, Anne Arundel officials are already thinking of ways to use LiveView Technologies in future elections and beyond. But, looking back, is there anything Garreis might have done differently?
“No,” he said. “Well... I would have used more cameras.”
Read the Anne Arundel County case study here.
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