GOSHEN — Indiana continues to move toward modernization of its election process, and evidence of that was apparent in Tuesday’s Goshen Community School’s referendum.
Voters were given the option of utilizing a paper ballot on which they could fill in an oval in front of the “yes” or “no” options on the building project, or they could slip a small plastic ballot card into an optical voting machine which displayed the question on a screen. Voters could then select from a “yes” or “no” display.
Paper ballots are run through a scanner at the polling locations, which puts the vote totals on computer memory cards. The optical machines also place votes on memory cards. Those cards are placed into sealed envelopes at the end of the day by poll workers and then run through a counting computer in the election center staffed by the election board and its hired vendor.
That dual machine system at precincts may be replaced in 2014 by vote centers utilizing all optical machines, according to election board member Wayne Kramer.
“The key will be the voter poll books,” Kramer said.
Those poll books are where the names and addresses of eligible voters are kept. The reason poll books are key to switching to vote centers is that the centers would replace individual precinct polling stations, and the workers at those locations who flip through the books to check voter eligibility. Poll books in the future may be a laptop computer or a tablet device.
If a switch is made to vote centers, according to Kramer, a voter would be able to vote at any vote center in a county, even one distant from where they live. Poll workers would use electronic poll books to verify a voter’s registration and eligibility and voters would then be able to access their local ballots on the electronic voting machines. That means voters working in one location in a county wouldn’t have to drive back to their local precinct to vote in an election.
“We are waiting on certification,” Kramer said of the electronic polling books while he was overseeing the vote count Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced that certification process has begun.
“The Secretary of State’s office has always been a leader in using technology to modernize the way we do business as a state, Lawson said. “Today, we continue that tradition by modernizing the electoral process. Indiana is now the first state in the nation to have ePollBook certification standards.”
Lawson said the 58 pages of certification protocols will allow vendors to have their election machines and electronic voter registration software and hardware approved for use in vote centers.
As of last Friday, five vendors have applied for certification for their electronic poll books.
Lawson said the electronic poll books will scan the bar code on the back of a voter’s drivers license so poll workers can quickly locate their voting record and confirm identification. Voters will then sign their name on an electronic signature pad. Lawson also said electronic poll books have been utilized since 2007 in Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties in a pilot program. In 2011 the General Assembly approved legislation to allow all counties to convert to the vote centers. Such a move requires a unanimous vote by local election boards. Three more counties Blackford, Johnson and Switzerland filed paperwork with the sate in 2012 to move to the vote centers.
Kramer said the election board is considering creating 20 county vote centers to replace the county’s 117 precinct polls at 81 locations utilized in primary and general elections.
The election board has created a pamphlet explaining the voting center concept and those pamphlets are available at the County Administration Building on Second Street. The pamphlet states that vote centers would reduce the cost of elections by reducing the number of poll workers needed and reduce the amount of election supplies. Information on vote centers can also be found at www.votecenters.in.gov.