400 New iPads Increase Voting Efficiency in Central New York

Onondaga County, N.Y., has replaced big black election binders it has long used with 400 iPads. This is the first time, aside from early voting, that iPads have been used to check voters in.

by Marnie Eisenstadt, Syracuse Media Group / November 6, 2019
Shutterstock/Eileen Salazar

(TNS) — Today is the first Election Day in Central New York without those big black binders full of names and addresses -- and no one seems to miss them.

This is the first time, aside from early voting, that iPads have been used to check voters in. Onondaga County, N.Y., replaced the books with 400 iPads.

In polling places with more than one district, you don’t have to remember to get in the right line. All lines lead to an iPad where a poll worker will type in your name. Then you verify that your name, address and birthday are correct and sign on the iPad.

“It was excellent. Very simple,” said Lauren Barnett, who voted at the Camillus Municipal Building in Fairmount. She needed to redo her ballot, but even that took only an extra minute or two, Barnett said.

The iPads were purchased by the Onondaga County Board of Elections with a state grant of $750,000. Onondaga County Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny said in the coming years, he expects the county will save money in two places: They won’t have to print the paper books of voter rolls, which costs between $10,000 and $30,000 a year. And the county will need about 100 fewer poll workers, which will save between $20,000 and $30,000 in training and pay. Today, the county has 1,124 poll workers at the various sites.

Megan Kiggins, one of the poll workers at the Camillus site, said the iPads have improved the flow of voters through the old school gym.

“It’s definitely cut back on the lines,” said Kiggins, who has worked in that spot for the past five years. By late morning, nearly 200 people had cast their ballots.

At Nottingham High School, voters were moving through the line much faster than in years past, said Tim Liebe, a poll worker. The experience is much faster for the voters and much easier for him and the other poll workers, he said. There’s no sorting through the big binder or looking up the election district when people don’t know it.

“For the most part, it’s wonderful,” he said.

In Cicero, poll worker John Ruckdeschel said voters were getting through the lines faster. He said the technology is simple enough that no one seemed to be struggling with it.

Fran Rice, who voted at Believer’s Chapel in Cicero, said it took her just a few minutes to walk in, check in on the iPad and cast her ballot. “I think it’s great,” she said.

The true test will be next year’s presidential election, when turnout is much higher, Ruckdeschel said. But he thinks it will go well.

“People will be used to it,” Ruckdeschel said.

©2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs