Using Microsoft Access for Election Night Reporting

From Tompkins County

Our office recently streamlined our election night reporting process by using Microsoft Access, a database management program. In previous years, phoned in results were written on tally sheets, counted and recounted by a group of people with adding machines, and then were written on a dry erase white board for the public to view. The next day someone would type the results into Excel, and later post them to our web page. This was a long, labor intensive, inefficient process.

While there are excellent election night reporting software programs available, including ones that seamlessly integrate with your current voter database software, budget constraints caused us to seek a cheaper solution. We decided to tap the capabilities of Microsoft Access.

First, we set up Access with the appropriate tables and query functions so we can enter the results as they came in. Then, on election night, we deployed six teams of two people each. When the results were phoned in, one person on the team answered the phone and wrote down the results on the canvass sheet. (We also recently created more compact tally sheets.) The other person entered the information into Access. Since Access can have multiple users, all six teams were able to enter data at the same time.

The reports in Access were set up to constantly update the inputted numbers, so running totals were immediately available. Periodically wed print out the results and double check them against the hand written sheets. That way any keyboard entry mistakes could be immediately corrected.

An added bonus is that Access reports can be saved as .pdf or .html files, allowing us to post results to the web within minutes of receiving the information. It also meant we could easily print out results for anyone who wanted them that evening.

If you decide to try this process, we strongly recommend you do a practice run ahead of time, to make sure everyone knows how to use the software, and everything works as planned. Also, you might want to start with a small election.

You will need at least one person familiar with Access to set up the program for each election. This might take a day or two for elections with only a few races, much longer for elections with many races. But we feel the labor up front is more than worthwhile for the time and effort savings on a hectic election night, and the speed, accuracy and ease that we can generate and post results. The reports are very professional looking, and we use them to submit our results to the State.