TIPTON — How Tipton County voters check into a polling site and what polling sites they can go to could be soon changing.

Tipton County Clerk Christy Crawford is looking to implement electronic poll books instead of paper poll books and possibly get rid of the county’s current precinct voting system in favor of vote centers. Crawford detailed her intentions about both at Monday’s county commissioner meeting.

VOTE CENTERS

If Tipton County were to switch to vote centers, it would be joining 47 other counties in the state, including adjacent Howard County. The switch would give voters more freedom to pick what poll location they would like to vote at.

Currently, the county operates under the electoral precinct system where voters must cast their ballot at the polling location nearest to their primary residence. There are 12 polling locations in Tipton County, according to Crawford.

Under the vote center system, though, voters would be able to cast their ballot at any vote center location in the county, not just the one closest to their residence.

The change would likely mean a reduction in polling locations. At Monday’s meeting, Crawford said the county would “likely” have five vote centers spread out across the county if it decides to go that route, though that number is not set in stone.

Crawford said, in alignment with Indiana Election Division guidelines, she has put together a 10-person study committee “to evaluate” if the county is ready to move to vote centers. The committee includes various individuals from both parties and backgrounds, including Commissioner Tracey Powell, a few poll workers and a local political science student, among others, and will hold its first meeting in the first week of June.

Electronic poll books

How county voters check in at their polling location will likely be entering the digital age soon.

The county is set to receive a $57,000 grant from the state allowing the county to transition to electronic poll books, also known as e-poll books, which will, according to Crawford, “reduce human error” and make Election Day run more efficiently by quickening check-in times.

“This is an exciting time to possibly be able to bring this technology to Tipton County,” Crawford said.

The e-poll book software was demonstrated to the commissioners by Steve Shamo, of the Indianapolis-based Microvote, a company that provides election equipment and support for such equipment.

The e-poll book, Shamo explained, works as such:

  • Poll workers will be given an iPad and barcode scanner that will scan the back of a state-issued ID and pull up the person’s name and address, and the poll worker will be able to check if the information matches the ID. The software prompts a poll worker to ask the voter if their address is changed, something that is often overlooked, Shamo said. All information comes from the state’s voter registration files.
  • The software will also tell the poll worker if the voter has already voted, either at another polling location or via absentee ballot, to make sure one doesn’t vote more than once.
  • If the election is a primary, the poll worker will flip the iPad to the voter and allow them to privately choose a Republican or Democrat ballot.
  • After all personal information has been verified, the voter will then sign their name on the iPad. That signature, Shamo said, is then stored and can be cross-checked with the voter’s original signature when they initially registered.
  • After that, a receipt listing all the relevant information is printed. The receipt is kept by the poll worker and can be referenced during a later audit if needed.
  • Shamo said the sign-in process through the e-poll book takes about 30 seconds in total. The e-poll book requires mobile data; most counties use hotspots provided by the state, Shamo said. He added that all information is secured with 256-bit encryption on the iPad itself.
  • If a voter’s ID is not scanning for some reason, the software allows the poll worker to manually search for the voter by their name. Once the voter is found, the sign-in process is identical to as if the ID barcode was scanned.

Annual expense for the software is about $3,500 a year, Shamo said.

The county could pay that cost through the savings of becoming a vote center county because the elimination of a polling location saves about $1,000 each, according to Crawford. So if the county did move from 12 voting locations to five vote centers, it could save $7,000 each election year, enough to cover the yearly e-poll box expenses. The county would also save on paper costs.

Crawford said the contract for the software is not complete but will be soon. In order for the county to move to e-poll books, the commissioners will have to vote to approve the contract.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich

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