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Franklin County Debuts New "Poll Pads" To Streamline Elections

Adora Namigadde
The iPads used as "poll pads" allow voting precincts to streamline the process.

For the first time, electronic tablets will speed up the check-in process for Franklin County voters. The county Board of Elections hopes the new "poll pads" will make the voting process smoother for both voters and poll workers.

According to Aaron Sellers, the Franklin County Board of Elections rolled out poll pads for the May 2 primary instead of a general election so it could test the technology with a relatively lower volume of voters.

“This is a good time for us to do that, and we’re learning as we go," Sellers says. "There will be a lot of things that we’re learning today that we’ll learn as we read the problem pages from the things that come back, so we can kind of tweak things and make it better for the next one."

When the old paper poll books were in use, voters stood in specific lines according to the first letter of their last names. But the new tablets allow voters to get in any line.

Sellers says they will minimize lines and allow poll workers to count results more quickly.

“You simply come in, you show your license, it’s scanned, the information pulls up for the roster judge,” Sellers says. “The roster judge spins the poll pad around, you will sign it, the roster judge spins it back around and looks at the signature to verify that it’s similar, then you’re issued an authority to vote.”

Implementing the poll pads cost over $2 million, with some funds from the state and the Department of Administrative Services.

The Board of Elections purchased 1,500 Apple iPads that have been programmed with election-related software from KNOWiNK, LLC. The same company’s iPads are currently used in 27 other Ohio counties.

For every 905 registered voters at a particular precinct, there is one poll pad - with a minimum of three poll pads for each.

“After the election’s over, all the paper poll books would come back," Sellers says. "And it’s a very labor-intensive process of scanning and dobbing. Getting these, it would take three or four days to do. Whereas now with the electronic poll pads, it’s certainly gonna be less labor-intensive.”

Paper poll books will be made available for use in all precincts if they’re needed as backup.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.