Lyon County election officer Tammy Vopat and deputy election officer Heather Dill recently finished training roughly 80 poll workers on the county’s new E-pollbooks.
The books will change the way that voters sign in before entering the voting booth, but in a very minor way.
Instead of signing a piece of paper, they will be putting their signature on an electronic pad. Just like the paper version, the new system will simply record that a person voted, not what ballot they received or who they voted for.
“The main thing that I want to let the voter know is that we do have new equipment, and actually the only change that the voter will see is when they sign their name,” Vopat said. “It won’t be on paper, it will be on one of the electronic signature pads.”
The purchase of the 32 E-pollbooks came from mostly federal funds that accounted for 90 percent of the total, the cost to the county was $6,000.
Federal monies came through the Help America Vote Act of 2002 which was intended to help states meet standards in election administration. The funds trickle down through the states and then to counties so they are better equipped to meet the requirements of HAVA.
The machines will be at all precincts in the county from August forward.
Voters will have to have a valid photo identification card, which will be scanned. Poll workers will then verify that the photo on the card matches the person going to vote, enter them into the system, have the voter sign the electronic pad, then give them the appropriate ballot.
“They’re going to state their name, and we’re going to make sure that that name matches the person standing before us,” Vopat said.
The August 5 primary is a closed election, meaning that anyone wishing to vote will have to be affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic party to be able to vote.
Separate ballot styles — some with multiple pages — in the primaries and general elections add to the difficulties for election officials.
Considering that there are 11 townships in Lyon County and the possibility of new legislation that would break down ballot styles to beyond the level of school districts, things can get difficult. The legislation also proposes to move spring elections to the fall, the new E-pollbooks will be a big help and time-saver for election workers.
“Knowing that the legislation is coming, we just wanted to be prepared, and this equipment is going to help us be more accurate in issuing ballots,” Vopat said. “Our voters are very open I think to change and I think they’ll appreciate the move towards the electronic phase of the process”
Lyon County has roughly 20,000 registered voters, and 25 percent show up for primary elections on average. General elections usually see around 50 percent.
Though it may seem like a small number, and disappointing to many, it’s still a lot to handle for the 80 poll workers that spend their election day at their respective posts. The E-pollbooks are meant to make the process faster and easier for voters and the election officials.
Vopat said that the most important thing for voters to remember is to bring their valid photo identification with them to the voting booths on election day. Again, to vote in the primary, voters have to declare a party to receive a ballot. The system will not be used for advanced voting.
“The only thing that we’re doing is going from paper to electronic,” Vopat said. “The main thing is that we have something new that we’re going to launch, and the only change the voter is going to see is signing their name on an electronic signature pad instead of a poll book. It’s just going to increase our efficiency and accuracy throughout the whole process.”