Poll workers won’t be shuffling through papers to verify voter registration information at many Davidson County precincts during August’s election. New electronic poll books will do the work for them.
The Davidson County Election Commission, following a $777,000 purchase, is making the transition from paper poll books to electronic versions at 60 of the city’s 160 precincts beginning this election cycle. Early voting for state primaries and Metro school board races begins Friday, but the commission won’t roll out the new machines until the Aug. 2 election.
“They speed up the process for the voter and they greatly reduce the opportunities for errors,” Elections Administrator Albert Tieche said, adding that the electronic poll books are identical to versions the Shelby County Election Commission uses.
Voters will spot the new electronic poll books utilized by election workers at greeting desks prior to entering the voting booth. In all, the election commission purchased 440 electronic poll books. Large precincts will employ as many as four of the e-books, he said, while smaller precincts will have two. At least one polling location in all 35 council districts will have electronic poll books.
Tieche said when voters show their voting identification, poll workers can find their registration and precinct information by using the touchscreen devices.
He said a more common usage of the electronic poll book would be to scan the bar codes of a voters’ driver’s license or voter ID card to verify voters are registered and at the correct precinct.
“Not only do the electronic poll books have all of the information for all the voters that vote in that precinct — that’s what the paper poll books have,” Tieche said. “They also have everybody in the entire county.
“So if a voter accidentally comes to the wrong polling place, we can find them in our database and we can tell them where their proper polling location is,” he said. “We can do that in about 10 seconds.”
Though the $777,000 cost to bring the tool to 60 precincts isn’t cheap, Tieche insists the transition will save Metro money in the long run. Foremost, he said the electronic poll books require fewer election workers. In addition, the election commission will no longer have to record citizens’ “voting history” by hand following an election. The process will take one day instead of several weeks, he said.
“We will evaluate how the poll books and our people perform with them, and then we’ll make the decision whether or not to employ them in November,” he said.
While the election commission appears to be making inroads in digitalizing voter verification, the process of incorporating an electronic filing system for campaign financial disclosures continues to lag.
Currently, candidates have to file their financial reports by dropping off paper documents at the election commission’s office. Individuals looking to review financial disclosures have to make the same trip. The commission does not make electronic versions available on the web.
“The thing that has been slowing that process down is we’ve had to do redistricting in back to back years,” Tieche said, referring to county redistricting in 2011 and state redistricting this year.
Putting the financial disclosures online “requires a tremendous amount of time for our IT staff,” he said, workers who are presently “swamped.”
Tieche said creating an electronic financial disclosure system would be one of the first projects his staff embarks on following the November election. He believes such a system should be installed in 2013.