Senate considers E-pollbooks


DARKE COUNTY — If the Ohio Senate’s version of the state’s budget bill meets with the approval of the Ohio House, county election boards in the state could receive a significant portion of the funding they need to purchase electronic pollbooks.

Proponents of electronic pollbooks, or “E-pollbooks” for short, contend that the devices would streamline the voting process, allowing election officials to quickly confirm the identification of voters electronically as opposed to having polling station workers flip through large paper pollbooks while lines of voters wait to cast their ballot on election days.

The Ohio Senate proposal seeks to have the state cover 85 percent of the cost, while counties would be responsible for funding the remainder. The provision was not included in the earlier House version of the bill. The two legislative bodies will meet in committee to reconcile differences in the bill before sending it to the governor’s desk.

If signed into law, the state would provide approximately $13.5 million towards the purchases.

A number of voter-advocacy groups favor the legislation. In addition, Managing Director of Policy Cheryl Subler of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) said her organization approves of the proposal.

“We are urging the committee to accept the Senate’s language on this,” she said. “The measure would provide much-needed funding for counties to purchase E-pollbooks.”

Subler added, “Though it isn’t a done deal, we are appreciative of the Senate for including this in their version of the budget bill.”

Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall said that the purchase of E-pollbooks has been something considered by the county commissioners, but a move which they have delayed making until the status of the Senate proposal is determined.

“We realize the benefits this would have for our local board of elections and voters, but if we can get state funding for it first, that would be best,” he said.

District 12 Senator and Senate President Keith Faber believes strongly that the addition of E-pollbooks will make the voting process more efficient in the Buckeye State.

“These will make Ohio elections easier and more accessible,” he said. “And the funding will assist local governments with election expenses.”

An added benefit, according to Faber, is that E-pollbooks will lessen the chance of fraudulent voting.

“It will provide added mechanisms to root out fraud,” he said. “with advanced checks to make sure people actually are who they say they are.”

Further, Faber asserts the move to digital may allow the state to downsize the number of poll workers it employs on election days.

“It could limit the amount of poll workers to as few as two, as opposed to four poll workers,” he said, noting, however, that a minimum of four workers at a polling place is currently mandated by state law.

“[The reduction from four to two workers] is something we could amend through a separate piece of legislation,” said Faber, “but we would want to first make sure the E-pollbooks work.”