Chicago voters on Tuesday won’t be watching poll workers flipping the pages of a massive book to check their signatures. Instead, the poll worker will be armed with a stylus and an electronic poll book.
City elections officials are debuting a new $2 million electronic polling system they hope will make the voting process faster, more efficient and more fraud-proof, according to Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
If all goes as planned, the thousands of poll workers who have been trained on the new equipment will simply type the voter’s last name into the electronic tablet and all the relevant information will immediately appear on the tablet screen, including whether the voter has already cast a ballot, the address of the correct polling place and the voter’s signature for comparison purposes. If everything checks out, the poll worker will print out a signature sticker that the voter will sign before getting a ballot, Neal said.
Neal said his office has trained more than 10,000 election workers, and tested the system—which requires a cellular connection--to ensure the signal is strong enough to get the job at polling places throughout the city.
“Now that being said we know that there are spots in the city on which cellular reception is difficult and we have anticipated those the best we can,” Neal said Monday. “We are hoping for a successful debut, but we are introducing new technology so we expect that things won’t be perfect. We hope it will not be a hindrance in any way to voters.”
Cook County elections officials are also testing similar equipment in about a quarter of the suburban precincts.
The last time elections officials debuted new electronic voting equipment in 2006, the new touch screen voting machines, a system-wide meltdown led to vote-counting delays that lasted several days. Neal said this time that won’t happen.
“We will have a redundancy in place so the actual ballot applications will be in the precincts,” he said. “So we will have the electronic poll book and the older phone book technology at the polling place just to make sure.”
The new technology is intended to keep the voting rolls up to date with more immediacy, so that last-minute registrations are not lost and voters who go to the wrong polling places can be directed easily to the correct location.
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