Electronic poll books will save voters’ time in line

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(Posted July 19, 2015)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Election officials are working to make the voting experience more efficient, starting with the check-in process.

The Ohio legislature has budgeted $12 million to help pay for electronic poll books for polling places throughout the state.

With electronic poll books, poll workers scan a voter’s driver’s license to instantly retrieve voter information for verification. This eliminates the need for poll workers to flip through pages of a paper register to find the same information.

The Madison County Board of Elections tested a couple of different brands of electronic poll books in this year’s May election. Tim Ward, director, was pleased with the time saved.

“We went from over three minutes per check-in to under 30 seconds,” he said.

Electronic poll books not only save time for voters, they also make post-election work easier, Ward said. Instead of signing a paper register, voters sign the electronic tablet. The signatures are archived digitally, so elections workers no longer need to spend a lot of time scanning and indexing the updated signatures. What took a week before now involves a simple two-hour download, Ward said.

Research is ongoing into which brand of electronic poll book will work best. No decisions have been made yet as to when the books will be implemented on a large-scale basis. Ward said that he’d like to have them in place for this November’s general election to give local election officials experience with the equipment before next year’s presidential elections.

Ward estimates that Madison County will need roughly 27 electronic poll books to serve its 27 voting precincts. The estimated price per unit is $1,500 to $2,000. The state will pay 85 percent of the cost; local boards will pick up the other 15 percent.

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