Funding avaialble for electronic pollbooks

By Lorna Hart -

POMEROY — Meigs County will have e-book technology at the polls by March 2016 elections.

According to Becky Johnston, director of the Meigs County Board of Elections, the board, in conjunction with Meigs County Commissioners, is in the process of implementing e-book technology in time for the spring general elections.

Voting jurisdictions traditionally had paper poll books, usually a three-ring binder, containing a list of eligible voters and their information. Poll workers would verify the information, issue ballots to registered voters, register those voters, monitor voting equipment, explain how to mark the ballot or use the voting equipment and count votes.

An electronic pollbook, also known as an e-pollbook, is typically either hardware, software or a combination of the two. Used in place of paper-based poll books, the electronic systems allow voters to sign in electronically. The functions of an e-pollbook also include voter look-up, verification, identification, precinct assignment, ballot and voter history update, name or address change and redirecting voters to correct voting location.

Proponents of e-book technology, including Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, say it is easier and faster for voters and there is less chance of voter fraud. According to Husted, e-pollbooks will also make elections simpler for Ohio staff and volunteers on Election Day.

“Ohioans already wait less time in line when casting their ballot at the polls than most Americans and implementation of e-pollbooks statewide is the next step we can take to lead the nation forward in making it easier to vote and hard to cheat,” Husted said.

Twenty-one Ohio counties are already using the new system. Although not required to have e-polling technology before the 2015 General Election, counties are being encouraged by the secretary of state’s office to move forward with the upgrade for the 2016 presidential election.

Husted’s office, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Administrative services, is working to help counties with the process by providing a list of approved vendors and devices for use in Ohio has been released to the election boards.

In addition, the state Legislature appropriated $12.7 million to assist county governments with the cost of upgrading to e-polling books. Funds will be distributed based on a county’s population and are intended to cover up to 85 percent of the cost of upgrading to the new technology.

Ohio county boards of elections were advised last week on the amount of funding available to each board and Meigs County is set to receive $15,394 from the state toward the cost of the project. Total cost of the new system will be announced when figures become available.

Some possible drawbacks to the system may include costs for purchase and maintenance, the challenge of training poll workers on a new technology and safeguarding the systems against cyber attacks. As with the paper system, there is the challenge of physical security of e-pollbook equipment and the data it contains.

Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551.

By Lorna Hart