Lamar County: Electronic pollbooks to be used Nov. 5

By HASKEL BURNS,

When Lamar County voters head to the polls for the Nov. 5 general election, they’ll notice a slightly different – but up-to-date – procedure before they cast their ballot.

The county recently upgraded to electronic pollbooks, which will take the place of the binders previously used to keep track of voters’ names at each precinct. Sign-in tables will no longer be broken up by alphabet – each table will now accept anyone with a last name beginning with A to Z – and poll workers will check off each voter’s name on the electronic pollbook, which is similar to an iPad or other tablet.

“So any voter can go to any of those tables,” Lamar County Circuit Clerk Martin Hankins said. “It’s the same process as always – you’re going to come in, show them your photo ID, and they’re going to find your name in the pollbook to verify that you’re in the correct polling place.

“They’ll click on your name and issue an election day ballot, and essentially they’ll put the voter access card into the encoder, and your ballot will be encoded. Then you’ll sign the signature receipt book like you always do, and they’ll hand you your card and you’ll go vote at the voting machine. It’s essentially the same thing as a paper pollbook; it’s just now being done electronically.”

The new pollbooks are made possible by federal legislation that allocated approximately $380 million last year for the upgrade of election technology or security around the country. Of those funds, Lamar County received about $85,000.

“I think once we all get accustomed to it, I do believe it’ll be a good process,” Hankins said. “The tables are not going to alphabetically broken down, so essentially you’re going to be able to go to any table when you walk into the precinct.

“So if any table is busy, and there’s another tablet with nobody there, you can walk to that table.”

The new pollbooks will also help to make it a little easier on election officials, as they will negate the need for several encoders, which are the devices that are used to program voter access cards.

“In the past, we’ve had people who would have to wear numerous encoders, depending on how many splits you would have at a precinct,” Hankins said. “But now, you won’t have to have numerous encoders, even though there could be numerous splits at that precinct.

“It won’t necessarily help us count votes faster, but it’ll help us record the information of who voted in a more timely manner. So just a voter history of who actually came and voted, we’ll be able to have that information more accessible and in a quicker time frame.”

Because this is the first time the electronic pollbooks have been used in the county, poll workers have been undergoing training the last couple weeks in preparation for election day.

“They’re going to continue to get more and more comfortable with them the more and more we use them, of course,” Hankins said.-