Gallia holds off on new e-pollbooks

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Board of Elections officials have decided to not purchase e-pollbooks using state allocated funds for the upcoming midterm November elections.

“E-pollbooks take the place of printed pollbooks,” said Dale Whitt, deputy director of the Gallia County Board of Elections. “With an electronic pollbook, it’s basically a laptop or tablet; there are various configurations.”

Whitt said registered voters could type their names into the pollbooks, some could swipe a driver’s license, and issues and information pertaining to a voter’s status and location would appear on the screen without having to hunt through paperwork.

“It takes out all of the guesswork,” he said. “This machine will automatically generate a voter access card for you. You can take it over to a machine and vote and be on your way. It can also tell you if you’re in the wrong voting precinct. It’s supposed to be more convenient and cut down on long waits and lines.”

Whitt said the board wants to “use the e-pollbooks, but the timing right now is not good.” In odd numbered years, there are local nonpartisan elections. Because of that, the turnouts are oftentimes lower than they would be for “something like a presidential election.” Whitt said this would normally be an optimal time to try to test the new technology.

“Because it’s a presidential (election) year coming up, the presidential primary is moved back two months,” he said. “Typically a primary is in May. Well, the presidential primaries are in March. The filing deadlines for all of those are also moved back. The one year that we have presidential elections, almost all of the county offices, with a couple of exceptions, are going to be on the ballot.

“People are going to be turning in petitions and filing. Any local issues that various townships might have or levies that are wanting to run are all going to be trying to get in and the filing deadline for them is going to be Dec. 16. So, we’re going to be coming out of our November election probably not even completely finished with paperwork, and bang, we’re going to be right into this Dec. 16 area.”

Because of new technology occasionally being buggy, Whitt said with the way dating issues fall in the current election calendar process that the election board would not have the time to rectify a problem before being faced with a primary election in March.

Whitt noted that the Gallia County Board of Elections meets four times a year with other boards across the state. He said the Gallia County board had an idea of “who is having a problem and where.” He said other counties that had purchased the e-pollbooks seemed to be happy with them.

The state is geared to kick in 85 percent of the overall costs for the e-pollbooks, according to Whitt. Funds are to be distributed based on county population. The Gallia County board expects to pursue purchasing the books around 2017. Whitt said, after speaking with state officials, the state-funded money should still be available in 2017 to help with book purchases.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright