DARKE COUNTY — Darke County voters heading to the polls November 3 may find themselves spending less time.
Thanks largely to a grant from the State of Ohio, poll workers for the Darke County Board of Elections will be using newly acquired electronic pollbooks, or “e-pollbooks,” for the first time, with the expectation that it will permanently replace the large paper pollbooks typically used on elections days.
Voters will still use the touchscreen ballots as they have for about 10 years, but their time checking in to get a ballot card should be significantly reduced.
“It replaces everything except for the voting machine itself,” said Luke Burton, elections administrator for the Darke County Board of Elections.
Each touchscreen e-pollbook, approximately the size of an Apple iPad, contains the information of all the county’s registered voters and is interconnected with all other e-pollbooks in the county by Wi-Fi.
Poll workers will be able to verify the identity of a voter either by typing the first few letters of the voter’s name or by scanning the bar code on the reverse side of a state-issued identification card, such as a driver’s license.
“This should be much quicker, easier for everyone coming to vote,” Burton said. “It should make the process much faster.”
Employed by the board beginning in July, Burton has been charged with testing and troubleshooting the system, and will be conducting training on the e-pollbooks for all this year’s poll workers.
To conduct a countywide election, Darke County employs a total of 172 poll workers, with 20 alternates. The City of Greenville alone requires 48 poll workers — 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans.
Though the new technology may eventually increase the likelihood that fewer poll workers will be needed, there will continue to be four poll workers at each voting precinct.
“For now, we’ll still have four poll workers,” said Burton. “We have to wait to hear from the Ohio secretary of state before we can reduce that number.”
In addition to decreasing the time it takes for voters to get in and out of the polling place, the new e-pollbooks are seen as another defense against possible voter fraud.
“[Fraud is] really not possible with this system,” said Burton. “If you’ve already voted, an indicator shows this in bright red and you won’t be able to vote for a second time.”
The e-pollbooks can also be used to direct voters to the correct voting location, if by chance they happen to show up at the wrong precinct.
“There’s a feature we can use to print out the address for a voter’s correct precinct,” said Burton.
The new e-pollbooks affects nothing in regards to voting. Absentee voters will still be able to vote by mail as they have before. If they attempt to vote at a polling place as well, however, the e-pollbooks record that a ballot was mailed to them. Further, voters may still cast a provisional ballot on paper if there is a question regarding identity, address or registration.
Sue Snipes, an administrative assistant at the Darke County Board of Elections, has tried the new e-pollbook system and her impression is positive.
“They’re nice,” she said. “They will make the poll worker’s job a lot easier. This will give people a quicker check in time, especially for the 2016 election.”
“You can’t go wrong with these,” she added. “It virtually eliminates the chance for errors.”
Jean Anderson, Board of Elections clerk, concurred, saying,” “This it going to make things a lot simpler, for both the polling locations and for us.”
The total amount needed to purchase the e-pollbooks was “almost $89,000,” said Darke County Board of Elections Director Becky Martin.
“However, the state has already reimbursed us for 85 percent of that,” she said. “The other 15 percent has already been paid by the board. Because the May election was so small, we were able to use the money from that to cover the difference.”
Martin added that the Darke County Board of Elections is still seeking paid poll workers for the November 3 election. Those interested may call the board at 937-548-1835 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the upcoming election, visit the board’s website at www.electionsonthe.net/oh/darke/.
Erik Martin may be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 937-569-4314.