The Election Center on Monday awarded the Lee County Board of Elections with the Minuteman Award for the 2021 Professional Practices Program. The Minuteman Award recognizes an elections practice that is quick or inexpensive to implement or produces sustainable savings.
Parker Holland, the former county elections director, and Lee County Board of Elections’ staff received the award at the Election Center’s national conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The Lee County Board of Elections partnered with the Lee County Information Technology Department to create a chat bot to answer frequently asked questions by voters. The idea was proposed during the 2019 election by Nick Gaster, an employee of the Lee County IT department.
“I can’t thank the IT department and elections staff enough for their help with the chat bot,” Holland said. “The chat bot was able to assist voters while lightening the load for our elections staff during one of the busiest times in recent memory.”
The chat bot debuted in February during the early voting period for the March 3, 2020 primary election. According to Holland, now a State Board of Elections employee, the chat bot answered hundreds of voters’ questions, resulting in 392 fewer potential phone calls that would normally be answered by the elections staff. The chat bot saved staff time, allowing them to focus on conducting the election.
The tool allowed voters to use their cell phones to text their election-related questions and receive automated answers in real time. To implement the tool, the board of elections only had to create the potential questions, while the IT department handled the rollout.
“We’re proud of the work done by our county boards of elections to help voters, while making the important jobs of election workers easier,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board. “Congratulations to everyone in Lee County who made this possible. We’re proud to call you all members of the North Carolina elections team.”
For more on the 2021 Professional Practices program, visit the Election Center's website.