Tools for Rapid Response on Election Day

Developing software to protect your right to vote

Harry Khanna
DNC Tech Team
4 min readJul 20, 2020


Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Voting is a right guaranteed by law to nearly every adult American citizen. That right — initially limited to wealthy, white, landowning men — was expanded over American history by heroes who dedicated their lives to secure the right to vote. The guarantees of the right to vote regardless of race or sex were hard-won, watershed moments in our history.

Ensuring that we live up to the promise of those guarantees and protecting your right to vote in each election is an important part of what we do at the DNC, Democratic State Parties, Biden for President, and across the Democratic ecosystem.

As of the last Presidential election, there are over 245 million eligible voters in our country, the vast majority of whom will cast a ballot on or before Election Day without any trouble.

But there are those who seek to win elections not on the strength of their ideas, but by instead erecting barriers to vote under the pretext of combating vanishingly rare in-person voter fraud. Those barriers can take the form of racially discriminatory voter ID laws, targeted voter registration purges or even modern tactics of intimidation.

Whatever the case, the Democratic ecosystem must have the tools and technology to react to and resolve any incident that could prevent an eligible voter from casting a ballot and having that ballot counted.

A national network

An important part of our work is responding rapidly to incidents affecting voters reported by a national network of poll observers and hotline workers. In this blog post, I’ll be diving into one aspect of voter protection: how the DNC Tech Team builds tools to enable rapid incident response.

The DNC Tech Team supports rapid incident response with software that enables the tracking and management of incidents in real-time and at scale. Incidents can be reported in one of two ways: a poll observer can witness an incident directly, or an incident can be reported through a call to the state or national hotline. We create a ticket with details of the incident, such as the polling location of where the incident took place.

Once a ticket is recorded, we get to work figuring out what happened and, if warranted, we follow up with the voter and the polling place to ensure every vote is counted. Often, the incident is innocuous. For example, the voter simply may have gone to the wrong polling location.

But sometimes, something has happened that wrongly prevents an eligible voter from casting their ballot. In that case, the appropriate team on the ground takes action immediately.

Sometimes that means working directly with the voter, but it can also mean taking it up with the polling location, county officials, or even statewide election officials. And, in the rare case where amicable resolution cannot be reached, the response team is prepared to petition a court to intervene.

Protecting voters in real-time, at scale

A key challenge in all of this is scale and timing. We must be ready to rapidly triage incidents at over a million polling places across all fifty states, all in real-time. We have minutes and hours, not days, to act, since in most cases the best chance to respond to an incident is on Election Day itself.

We tackle this challenge in part with a network of virtual “boiler rooms.” These boiler rooms can correspond to real physical places across the country: rooms where staff and volunteers physically sit and coordinate the response to incidents as they occur. State parties often have many boiler rooms open on Election Day.

We maintain this network of virtual boiler rooms to address the significant operational and technological challenge of getting the right information in front of the right person at the right time.

The ability to escalate an incident to the appropriate person in the right boiler room is possible using software the DNC has built to track incidents impacting the right to vote. With it, rapid response becomes feasible at large scale. Rapid response is central to ensuring every eligible voter who wants to vote can cast a ballot, and every ballot is counted accurately.

If an incident occurs that could risk disenfranchising any eligible voter, the entire Democratic ecosystem rallies to meet the challenge. Our team at the DNC is proud to build tools to help protect the right to vote and support our partners in that fight.

If you have any questions or face obstacles in registering to vote or casting your ballot, you can always call the DNC national hotline at (833) 336-VOTE.

If you’re interested in joining our team, take a look at open opportunities here.