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County considering $300K tech upgrades

Clark County Board of Elections members are considering technology upgrades that could cost up to $300,000, including electronic poll books.

But the new technology is costly and would require board members to make other changes to save money, such as consolidating precincts.

Board members may decide next month on for a five-year capital improvement plan that could include a high-speed scanner and electronic poll books, which are electronic versions of the voter rolls that can be used to process voters at the polls instead of the voluminous paper-based lists.

If the board adds electronic poll books, Director Matthew Tlachac said Clark County would join 11 other counties in Ohio currently using the technology, including Montgomery County.

“The technology would help speed up the process a little bit … We need to plan for it so we’re not requesting a massive amount of money at one time,” Tlachac said.

The polls books cost about $200,000 and the high-speed scanner costs $100,000.

“If we did something like this it would have to be in tandem with other cost saving measures, but it’s just one of the things we’re considering,” Tlachac said.

Montgomery County Board of Elections Director Steve Harsman said officials there began using electronic poll books in November 2011.

The board paid $345,000, but Harsman said officials saved $200,000 annually by consolidating precincts.

“We wanted to implement poll books because it expedites the check-in process and gets voters to the machines faster,” Harsman said.

The electronic poll books contain a voter registration database for an entire county. The machine can scan a drivers license and ensure voters don’t vote using the wrong ballot or at the wrong polling location.

“It’s a huge benefit post-election,” Harsman said, adding that work that had taken weeks to complete was done in a matter of hours.

Montgomery County officials saved $200,000 each year by reducing the number of precincts there from 548 to 360, Harsman said, and reduced the number of polling locations from 360 to 176.

In addition, he said, Montgomery County eliminated four other poll workers for every election.

Clark County currently has a total of 100 precincts and Tlachac said it’s too early to speculate on any reductions or consolidations.

The technological upgrades, Harsman said, streamlined the election process and saved post-election labor costs, which was needed because the agency’s staff was cut 20 percent.

Clark County Board of Elections Chairwoman Lynda Smith said the board and staff members are discussing the potential upgrades now so they can begin setting aside money each year.

She said she’s considering adding a new high-speed scanner, which could take folded and wrinkled ballots.

“The technology looks really good, but it comes at a high cost,” Smith said. “Any time you can handle the ballot less, it helps with accuracy.”

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