Office of the City Clerk, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Enhancing Election Worker Management in Grand Rapids


Grand Rapids City Clerk Joel Hondorp and Elections Administrative Analyst Daniel Kvamme were bogged down by a clunky system of spreadsheets and emails to manage the city's 600+ election workers. The existing processes wasted staff time and frustrated workers who couldn't quickly update their information. But when they heard about U.S. Digital Response's (USDR) Election Worker Management System—a tool designed to simplify scheduling, training, and communication—they saw a chance to overhaul their processes. Working hand-in-hand with USDR's team, Joel and Daniel tailored the system to Michigan's election laws and Grand Rapids' unique needs. The results? A high-functioning operation that saved time and kept workers in the loop.

Navigating the Complexities of Election Worker Coordination

The City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, with its 147,000 registered voters across 74 precincts, faced significant challenges in managing its election worker workforce. The Clerk's office relied on a cumbersome combination of Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Word mail merges, and Outlook emails to coordinate election workers. Daniel was solely responsible for placing the 600 workers needed for each major election and found the process overwhelming. "It was simply a large Excel file spreadsheet with all the worker information that would be mail merged into Microsoft Word for placement letters, copy and paste emails into Outlook, which was very clunky, to say the least," Daniel explained.

This manual approach led to several pain points:

  • Difficulty tracking worker availability, preferences, and special requirements
  • Inability for workers to update their information easily
  • Challenges in ensuring balanced partisan representation at each precinct
  • Time-consuming processes for communicating training and placement information
  • Handling one-off requests and last-minute changes

"We would lose election workers in the mix because they changed their email address or moved, and there was no place for them to update their information," Joel said.

The office explored solutions like Constant Contact for email communication and Kronos for scheduling but found most software products didn't fully address the unique needs of election worker management. "They couldn’t do the scheduling part because there are so many variables with election worker scheduling," Joel said.

Our approach

Discovering USDR's Election Worker Management System

Joel learned about USDR’s Election Worker Management System through the Elections Clerk Community listserv. Upon reading a case study about a successful implementation in Harris County, Texas, he contacted USDR.

The tool's ability to streamline scheduling, training, and communication while being highly configurable appealed to the Clerk's office. They appreciated USDR's approach to understanding election officials' needs and building solutions around them. "This is the first time someone reverse-engineered the process, asking, 'What do you need?' And saying, 'Hey, we can come up with a solution,'" Joel said, underlining USDR's process of collaboration with election administrators to develop solutions rather than providing a one-size-fits-all product.

Adapting to Grand Rapids’ Election Rules

Adopting USDR's Election Worker Management System required careful consideration of Michigan's unique election laws and close collaboration with the USDR team. Daniel praised the USDR team's expertise and approachability, saying, "The team is so knowledgeable, but they're also not condescending when I ask what may seem like a simple coding question that I know nothing about. They're very responsive, polite, and courteous, always willing to go the extra mile to provide us with what we need."

Key features in the system that appealed to the Clerk's office included:

  • User-friendly online sign-up forms for election workers
  • Automated reminders for training and placement information
  • Color-coding and filtering capabilities for at-a-glance insights into worker availability, training status, and placement
  • Ability to make last-minute worker replacements and ensure balanced precincts

The Election Worker Management System is part of USDR's more extensive Election Administration Platform, which offers additional capabilities such as candidate filing tracking, online help desk, and a voting wait time tracker. 

Realizing the Benefits: Efficiency, Accuracy, and Collaboration

Since adopting the Election Worker Management System, the Grand Rapids City Clerk's office has experienced notable improvements in efficiency and accuracy. "It has been a big success in terms of consistency in messaging," Daniel said. "The automated reminders, like 'Hey, you have training in two days, this is where it's at' – that automation is a significant feature that I would champion."

The tool has increased responsiveness from election workers, saved time by automating manual processes, and provided better visibility into worker data. While quantifying the exact time savings has been challenging due to the dynamic nature of the work, the impact has been significant.  “By automating the tasks for 99% of our workers, we can focus our time on the 1% thornier issues,” Joel said.

The partnership with USDR has been a highlight for the Clerk's office. "There's no sales pressure. It's like, here's this tool. And if you want it, use it,” Joel explained. The collaborative nature of the Election Worker Management community has also been valuable, with shared resources and the opportunity to learn from peer election offices. 

Looking Ahead

As the City of Grand Rapids prepares for future elections, the Election Worker Management System has become indispensable. By streamlining election worker coordination, the Clerk's office can now dedicate more time and energy to the many other critical aspects of administering safe, secure, and accessible elections for all.

The successful implementation in Grand Rapids demonstrates the value of solutions like USDR's Election Administration Platform for jurisdictions seeking to modernize their election processes. 

"This is the first time someone reverse-engineered the process, asking, 'What do you need?' And saying, 'Hey, we can come up with a solution.'"

Joel Hondorp
City Clerk
City of Grand Rapids, Michigan



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