The 2020 election is historic for many reasons, but the most pressing feature is Covid-19. Making the polling locations safer and more efficient has never been more important. A group of eight graduate and undergraduate students from Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) are being led by Director of Professional Practice Dima Nazzal and Coca-Cola Material Handling & Distribution Chair and Professor Benoit Montreuil to facilitate the voting process. The project, titled Safe and Secure Elections (SSE), is a joint effort between ISyE and the College of Computing.
The team was asked by Fulton County to do a comprehensive review on some of the polling locations. The goal is to provide recommendations for resources that would benefit both voters and poll workers. The students have run simulations, built models, and studied queuing theory to address the efficiency of voting. The goal is to make wait times as low as 30 minutes so that the opportunity to vote remains accessible and exposure to other people is minimal. There are many factors that the team must consider such as machine failure, slow computers, and Covid-related physical distance measures throughout the polling location.
Anjana Anandkumar, a fourth-year ISyE student involved in the project, has found using her skills in such a meaningful way has been very rewarding.
“My favorite part is seeing the impact of our work and how changing one detail could optimize precinct resources and give everyone an equal chance to vote,” she said. Her passion for getting involved in SSE stemmed from her experience seeing a correlation between wealth disparities and voting. Applying her skills to address this observation proved impactful.
Another notable aspect of the project is the use of Georgia Tech’s basketball arena as a polling location. On three different days in October, any Fulton County resident could vote early at McCamish Pavilion. On Election Day, Nov. 3, it will serve as a polling site for people who have been specifically assigned to the McCamish precinct, including Georgia Tech students who registered to vote using their campus address.
“When we learned that there would be a polling location in our own back yard, we were very grateful that Georgia Tech provided another facility, and we looked at it as a central location to optimize,” Nazzal noted.
The project is a multidisciplinary effort, yet everyone involved has the passion for improving the significant process of voting.
Nazzal added, “I think everyone is very enthusiastic about this project because it touches our lives, and we all face the impacts of it.”
The importance of the ISyE team’s work will be seen across Fulton County as Election Day nears.
You can learn more about the interdisciplinary Georgia Tech team that worked on the Safe and Secure Elections Project here.
ISyE Student Team
ISyE Communications Assistant