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Elkhart County, Ind., Turns to Tech to Speed Up Voting Process

The new system, a touch-screen tablet with fewer wires, can have elections uploaded onto the system with only the use of a USB connection, allowing Clingerman to quickly put each election on each machine.

by David M. Palmer, The Elkhart Truth, Ind. / June 22, 2017

(TNS) -- GOSHEN — A change in voting hardware could speed up the check-in process at the polls in Elkhart County.

On Wednesday, the Elkhart County Vote Center Study Committee met to discuss the possibility of a hardware upgrade for the devices poll workers use to check voters in to their chosen vote centers, which the county switched to from precincts for the past six elections. A recommendation to upgrade the check-in devices appears likely.

According to Jeremy Burton, a representative from the county’s current device and software vendor Election Systems and Software, the new technology will look and feel much like the old system minus a few essential upgrades, including reduced setup time for the county’s Voter Registration and Election board member Chad Clingerman.

Burton said the new system, a touch-screen tablet with fewer wires, can have elections uploaded onto the system with only the use of a USB connection, allowing Clingerman to quickly put each election on each machine.

Clingerman said Wednesday that it currently takes him “a few hours,” as he has to download it all onto individual cards before installing the data onto each machine.

The system being offered by Election Systems and Software is currently in use in two counties in Indiana, as well as “several other counties around the country,” said Burton. Chicago also uses the system, said representatives from Election Systems and Services.

Of the 4,400 ExpressPoll system units in use in Chicago, Burton said only three needed replaced before the time polls closed.

Another favorable feature of the new units was the upgraded memory. In the past, the committee said, the current voter sign-in machines experienced low-memory issues, which caused delays in the process.

The new ExpressPoll reportedly curb that problem by featuring more memory, which in turns allows poll workers to use the machines for longer before being required to archive sign-ins to continue using the machines without issue.

The overall cost to upgrade to the new units totals out to roughly $80,000, Burton said, after a trade-in value of another $80,000 for the units the county currently uses.

The committee discussed the amount of money that is being saved from the switch vote centers over precincts, saying over $100,000 is saved annually from the move.

Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson said the only options as things stand now are either keeping the current system which causes issues, recommending the upgrade or finding another vendor entirely, which would cost much more than making the change to Election Systems and Software’s new model.

After discussing, the committee settled on presenting the information received Wednesday to committee members who were absent from the meeting, and making an official recommendation to the County election board that the $80,000 upgrade be included in the 2018 budget, which will soon be presented to the Elkhart County Commissioners.

©2017 The Elkhart Truth (Elkhart, Ind). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.