County explores system to speed up voting
Douglas County is considering a new device that could limit the amount of time spent in line during an election.
County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow said the new electronic device, the Poll Pad by KnowInk, is a well-thought out product that could also save taxpayer dollars and possibly reduce the number of election judges.
Rosenow, along with Timothy Vlach, KnowInk sales manager, presented information to the Douglas County commissioners at their regular meeting on Oct. 17.
Vlach said the Poll Pad, which was designed by Scott Leiendecker, a former election director for the city of St. Louis, Missouri, takes the place of the paper process when voters are checking in. It is a streamlined process for voter check-in and verification that can help reduce wait times on Election Day.
Rosenow told commissioners that next month, she will present details about cost and the number of units needed next month for the county to adopt this new technology.
State grants can help pay for the devices, she said. Vlach said the state is willing to pay up to 75 percent of the cost of the Poll Books. The cost for the full package is $1,400. However, the company submitted a contract to the state, which is currently being reviewed. If approved, the cost per unit would drop down to $1,280.
That cost does not cover the $125 per unit annual maintenance fee or the fee for the Wi-Fi unit that may be needed.
Chairman of the Board Jim Stratton questioned the ease of use of the product. The average age of an election judge/poll worker is 74, he said.
"This needs to be (darn) simple to operate," he said.
Rosenow said Vlach did a demo of the product to employees in her office and she said, "They all loved it and asked when they could get started."
Vlach said he has worked with older people who are very hesitant about high-tech equipment and that he has yet to have one who couldn't use it.
"I've had many tell me that it is so easy they never want to go back to using paper," he said.
The company has been in business for six years, with units operating in Minnesota for the past four years. The Poll Pad provides service to more than 450 election authorities in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
Rosenow said she talked with election authorities in a couple of counties in Minnesota that use this device, including Hennepin County, and those she spoke with love the product and said they would never go back to using the paper check-in method.
"I think we should move forward with this," Commissioner Jerry Rapp said.
Rosenow said she would bring more information back to the commissioners at the Nov. 7 board meeting and that action can be taken at that time.