New Poll Book System Could Streamline Alabama County’s Voting

The new system is expected to expedite voter check-in at polling sites across the county while saving thousands of dollars.

by Michael Wetzel, The Decatur Daily / March 14, 2018
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(TNS) — Morgan County, Ala., expects to save thousands of dollars while improving its voting process at the precincts, officials said Tuesday.

Probate Judge Greg Cain said purchasing electronic poll books provided by Election Systems and Software LLC will expedite the voter check-in at polling sites and that 50 percent of the initial costs and yearly maintenance will be reimbursed by the state. He said the reimbursement includes only systems purchased after March 26.

Cain on Tuesday presented county commissioners during their regular meeting with two quotes submitted by ES&S. The package with the newer hardware will cost $121,651.80. The older package is $102,889. “Both have the same software,” he said.

Ray Long, commission chairman, said about $100,000 was budgeted in fiscal 2018 for the electronic voting upgrade.

Cain said the cross-over voting rule change in the primary runoff in December “posed a challenge to poll workers.” Morgan also piloted an electronic book program in the November 2016 general election.

“This replaces the paper check-in list that people use when they check in,” Cain said. “Lines are eliminated. Everyone’s information is contained on all the iPads in that precinct. They all communicate together. ... People will vote the way they always have. This will speed up the process of checking in.”

Cain added provisional ballots would still be allowed for voters who failed to bring proper identification or whose name was missing from the voter list.

District 3 Commissioner Don Stisher said he is worried about some voters who have issues working with computers, laptops and smartphones.

“At first there will be some confusion at the voting polls,” he said. “There’s going to be some situations with voters. They’re not going to be comfortable."

But, he said, the good outweighs the bad. “It’s a good time to start the transition to electronic poll books. We’ll start training the poll workers and get them ready for the (June 5) primaries.”

Stisher said the technological advances could mean fewer poll workers.

“We’re having problems getting volunteers at the polling sites, for a lot of things," he said. "Our older generation has a sense of service. The lines will be shorter. People standing out in the rain waiting to vote are unhappy. This could make those lines more efficient.”

He said voters will still receive help checking in, if needed, but that technology is key nowadays.

“We have the option of scanning at the self-checkouts at Kroger and Walmart,” Stisher said. “We’ve got to check in on a computer when we go to the doctor’s office nowadays.”

©2018 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.