By JOSHUA STALEY
When Fredericksburg voters return to the polls for Virginia’s primary elections in June, poll workers will use a new device to check them in.
Rather than consulting alphabetized lists of registered voters, poll workers will now find people by scanning their ID cards.
Election workers will be trained later this month to use the new Apple iOS device, called Poll Pads, designed to speed up the check-in process and cut down on lines across Fredericksburg’s five voter precincts and one central absentee precinct which will streamline the check-in process when integrated with the absentee process.
“We were looking for a way to improve efficiency to get the voters in and out faster,” Rene Rodriguez, Chairman of the city’s Electoral Board, said at a meeting on Feb. 5.
The election administrators work closely with all invested parties to ensure that all precincts in the city are of a manageable size. The number of Poll Pads allocated per precinct is determined by the number of voters registered at each and the expected turnout based on election type and historical turnout comparisons. Presidential elections and local elections may require a different consideration of how many pads to allocate.
This training is not open to the public because of election security matters.
Fredericksburg officials said the technology, first used at polls in Rhode Island in 2016, should eliminate the need for polling paperwork and reduce human errors associated with the manual check-in process.
The new devices are considered to be more secure than the existing operating system, said Marc Hoffman, the city’s general registrar, who administers elections in Fredericksburg. Poll Pads use a “guided access”, meaning no unauthorized connections can be made. The pads use an iPad format which runs on an iOS operating system. They are on a closed network and therefore not available or accessible by outside interference and can be remotely monitored by the elections staff on Election Day.
KNOWiNK, the company behind the Poll Pad states on their website, “we are committed to growing with your jurisdiction to meet your evolving needs and to help you achieve your vision to modernize your elections with best-in-class technology.”
Other Electronic Pollbooks (EPB) solutions similar to the Poll Pad were considered, however, Code of Virginia 24.2-602 exempts election equipment from certain purchasing and procurement requirements.
After other localities were consulted about their experiences and recommendations, “the Poll Pad was determined to be the most secure, intuitive, user friendly and efficient,” Hoffman said.
For $20,000, the city purchased 19 machines that the three-member electoral board, which oversees local elections, plans to deploy in time for the June 11 primaries.
Poll workers scan registered voters’ valid ID cards on the Poll Pad to check-in them in. Each pad will have a poll book securely downloaded onto it with all registered voters’ information.
An expired ID card—up to one year—will still be accepted at check-in. Voters with an expired ID past one year will be asked for a secondary card.
If a voter is casting a Provisional Ballot, which is used when the voter’s eligibility to vote is uncertain, the officer of election can mark said ballot provisional on the Poll Pad. The board of elections will later investigate the Provisional Ballot.
“This is the future,” Rodriguez said.
The process under Virginia law is: the voter approaches an officer of election with their qualifying ID card. The voter is asked to state their name and address which is then repeated back to them by the officer of election. The officer then marks that voter’s name in the EPB (Poll Pad) and the voter is given a ballot to mark per usual.
“Right now, people have to sit in lines and wait for them to find your information,” said Fredericksburg citizen, Dora Bennett. “I think this sounds like a much more organized system that will benefit us as voters.”
According to KNOWiNK’s website, Poll Pads are currently used in twenty-three states and the District of Columbia.