Eyeing next-gen elections

Electronic poll books may add efficiency, save money

By Dylanne Petros - [email protected]

WILMINGTON – Voters might soon be checking in on election day on electronic tablets instead of bound paper books.

The Clinton County Board of Elections spoke to the Clinton County Commissioners Monday to gain support from the commission for the purchase of electronic poll books.

Shane Breckel, director of the board of elections, said the state has appropriated $12.75 million for the electronic poll books and will match 85 percent of the cost if counties are interested in making the switch.

“The state will allocate a certain amount per county,” he said.

Right now, Breckel said it is unknown how much the state will allocate to every county, but steps need to be taken now so the paperwork for the poll books can be started.

Clinton County would have to pay 15 percent of the total cost of the books and then the Department of Administrative Services would take care of the other 85 percent.

While the Board of Elections does not plan on making the switch until 2016’s March primary, a commitment must be made by the Clinton County Commissioners soon to take advantage of the match.

“We’re not going to have matching funds probably ever again,” Breckel said.

The cost for the electronic poll books ranges from $1,100 to $1,700 per book, he said.

The Board of Elections wants to get an electronic poll book for each precinct, totaling 35 poll books.

For 35, Clinton County would have to pay between $5,775 to $8,925.

The county could potentially receive five extra electronic poll books, which would bump the cost to $6,600 to $10,200, Breckel said.

The poll books wouldn’t change how voting is done, but only how voters check in to vote.

The switch would help the Board of Elections save on printing costs in the long run, said Jay Peterson, deputy director of the Board of Elections.

“We normally pre-print 35 poll books with every voter in that particular precinct and that is loaded in and sent out to the precincts,” he said. “What we are doing is substituting a surface tablet (for the book).”

The Board of Elections, if the switch is made, will not only save money but also time.

Right now it takes four or five days after a large election to collect the election history. If the county switches to the electronic poll books, election history will only take about 15 or 20 minutes, Breckel said.

Having the electronic poll books would make it faster for voters to actually cast their vote, as it will be easier to pull up their voting history and give them the correct ballot, he said.

“It almost looks like a mini pad when they go to sign in,” Breckel said. “The voter’s information will be in there.”

The Board of Elections is still “doing (its) homework,” he said, but wanted the commission to know about the electronic poll books, as they will be brought up in future meetings.

“There’s still a little more I would like to learn more about,” Breckel said. “I just want to look at what all the options are and make sure that when we make a purchase it’s the best purchase for our county and what we’re going to use it for.”

Commissioner Pat Haley said he likes the concept and wants more definite numbers on how many Clinton County would purchase and the total cost the state would allocate before the Clinton County Commission makes a commitment.

Electronic poll books may add efficiency, save money

By Dylanne Petros

[email protected]