E-pollbooks to debut Tuesday in Clark, Champaign

Voters in Clark and Champaign counties will check-in on electronic pollbooks for the first time instead of paper books during Election Day on Tuesday.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Matthew Tlachac recently ordered about 150 E-pollbooks from Tenex Software Solutions, based in Florida. Champaign County Board of Elections Deputy Director Meredith Bodey said Thursday that officials received 28 E-pollbooks — one for each precinct — from Votec Corporation, based in California.

Tlachac said officials decided to roll out the E-pollbooks for voters this election to get poll workers and voters comfortable with the devices before the presidential election next November.

“We see great benefit to have these in place for the presidential year when we have higher turnout at the polling locations. We wanted to get as many elections under the belts of our poll workers so they felt as comfortable as possible with these devices,” Tlachac said. “While we know there will be some issues that we may have to resolve and work on in the future, I think this implementation in November is going to be really positive for the community and for the voters.”

E-pollbooks contain county voter information and replace the paper pollbooks voters sign when they check in on Election Day. The technology is expected to increase accuracy and the speed of check-in times for voters.

Normal procedures will be followed, except voters will sign the surface of a tablet instead of a paper pollbook.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in September gave county boards of elections the “green light” to begin purchasing E-pollbooks.

As part of the Ohio budget, $12.7 million has been appropriated to aid county governments in covering the cost of upgrading to E-pollbooks during the biennial budget.

The state money would fund 85 percent of the cost for counties that wanted to use E-pollbooks. County governments will pay the remaining 15 percent of the cost.

“The benefits are faster processing times, less time waiting in line at the polls,” Tlachac said. “Folks are processed an average between 30 seconds to a minute. They have a ballot in hand and they’re being led toward the privacy screen and they can go ahead and mark their ballots.”

Long term, Tlachac said E-pollbooks will save tax dollars as the number of poll workers needed to work Election Day is expected to drop and the staff time needed after an election to update election history should be reduced from weeks to “a matter of hours.”

Tlachac said Clark County will get more than $147,000 from the state for start-up costs and Clark County will pay about $33,000.

Champaign County E-pollbooks cost about $42,000, and the county’s share will be approximately $10,000, Bodey said.

Bodey said voters will need to present an identification and then will sign the electronic pad just as they would at Walmart or other stores.

“For the voters it should be just a breeze,” Bodey said.