A Pierre software company is weaving an electronic path between millions of election-night ballots and the media who report them.
The company, BPro, is owned by Brandon and Abbey Campea and employs 12 programmers who write election software called “TotalVote.”
“When a person votes on Election Day, the ballot is counted by a tabulator and then transferred into our system,” explains Campea. “Our software reports the results and provides them to the media outlets.”
He adds, “We’re the official people who know the results before anyone else.”
BPro staff are the first-receivers of election results in South Dakota and six other states—Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Hawaii, New Mexico and most recently Oregon, as well as Sacramento County in California and 11 Minnesota counties.
It’s a quick turn-around that’s months in the making. “We begin preparing way ahead. For instance, New Mexico’s primary is in June, but we began testing the system in January … six months early.”
In South Dakota, BPro will run two simulations and a mock-election before the June and November elections. In North Dakota, the company will conduct three weeks of regional training over the coming months while a state like New Mexico will hold a state-wide meeting and simulations.
Regardless of the location, Campea is confident of the fit. “Every state’s election runs differently. For example, North Dakota has different rules for voter registration than South Dakota and Nebraska. We customize our software to fit those needs.”
Despite the best planning, mistakes happen. Campea counts on it. “Elections are about the exceptions,” he says. “Tabulators don’t work. Results come in late. The wrong file can be uploaded.”
That’s why Campea and his crew are always present on election night. “We send programmers out to our various locations; I haven’t been in South Dakota on election night since 2008.”
BPro’s run with election software began in 2007 when Chris Nelson was South Dakota Secretary of State. At that time, BPro was producing software for various government agencies. The progression to “TotalVote” seemed natural. The relationship turned out well and even won the Election Center State Technology Award in 2009, the same year Campea and his wife became the company owners.
“We moved to Pierre from Spokane in 2001 planning to stay for two years so I could work as a programmer for BPro,” explains Campea. “Here we are today.”
In addition to Pierre, BPro now has a three-person office in Fargo and continues to pursue more public contracts. In early February, Campea was in Washington, D.C., at a State Election Directors’ meeting vying for more clients. “We talked about election reform and presented our product to the state election directors. Getting clients is a slow process. No one is going to change software this year. We’re hoping they’ll select us in the future.”
In addition to election-night returns, BPro software tracks voter registration and candidate information. It can also handle county, state and school elections.
And, as in any political arena, Campea has faced some stiff competition. “We’re the little guy. But because we’re specialized and service-oriented, we’ve gone up against some big names and won.”
BPro also has been rewarded with repeat contracts and was a finalist for the National Association of Secretary of States (NASS) Ideas Award in 2014. “These awards are nominated by our clients, not us, which means they’re happy with our work,” he explains.
While Campea will continue to sweat it out on election night, he says it’s all worth it.
“Elections give us the chance to show off our work. It’s rewarding to know something we worked on is being seen by hundreds of thousands of people – and no one knows it’s us.”