Election tech: How one North Hollywood company is guiding you to the polls (literally)

by Hannah Levy
October 29, 2018
election tech los angeles
photo via shutterfly

Millennials don’t vote — most of them, at least. And while the country has been busy debating the reasons why (and Snapchat has been quietly running a test or two), one engineer got to work on a fix: a tool that makes voting easier.

That developer’s name is Chris Voronin, and his solution, My Polling Place, is a free app that helps registered voters in LA county locate their local polling place — and then reminds them to vote.

“If you grew up around technology, the voting process is actually really complicated, because there’s no technology whatsoever.”

With election day fast approaching, Voronin started his own process of getting vote-ready, including figuring out where the heck he should go to cast his ballot in the first place.

That part wasn’t so obvious.

“If you grew up around technology, the voting process is actually really complicated, because there’s no technology whatsoever,” said Voronin. “So I thought: Why not make a simple app that reminds you when you need to go vote, allows you to look up your polling place, and gives you driving directions?”

But this story isn’t about a developer hacking away in his spare time. It’s about what happened next: Voronin took the app to his full-time employer, North Hollywood-based technology consulting firm SADA Systems  —  starting with SADA’s president and CEO, Tony Safoian.

“Chris showed me the one app that was already out there, and — just from a user standpoint — he’s using it and he’s frustrated. Then, it crashes,” said Safoian. “I think Chris was kind of appalled and decided to do something about it.”

Safoian gave Voronin the greenlight to recruit a small internal team to build My Polling Place. He looped in a UX/UI designer here, a product developer there. Within weeks, the team had completed the app. Today, they’re working with the city to announce the product and get it into users’ hands.

“This is the kind of talent we have and the kind of culture we support,” Safoian said of the team behind My Polling Place. “We want to be an organization that’s open to great ideas, even when those ideas have nothing to do with our commercial ambitions but are the right thing to do in our community.”

Voronin’s story reinforces that picture. “We have a slogan at this company: Be one step ahead. They actually encourage us to think that way,” he said.

It’s all about the idea, not where it comes from. You don’t have to have a big title or a big team to pitch an idea.”

It’s not the first time that a passion project has turned into a fully minted product at SADA Systems. According to Safoian, many of the company’s products, services and new practice areas were born out a team member’s unique interest, talent or muse.

“It’s all about the idea, not where it comes from. You don’t have to have a big title or a big team to pitch an idea,” he said.

It’s a message Safoian and the SADA Systems team is working hard to trumpet, especially as their 230-plus person team continues to grow (and, yeah, it’s growing).

“I hope the success of a commercial release for this app, which a few weeks ago was just an idea, reinforces that message,” Safoian said.

Promoting a work culture of collaboration? We salute you.

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