City voters may have noticed something new at their polling place last week. Tuesday marked the first time elections officials used iPads at every precinct to check in voters.
The city launched a pilot program in a third of its precincts in August 2014. Mary Wheeler-Jones, the Democratic director of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, said they allow the city to eliminate the large binders of paper, which streamlines the check-in process.
“(Voters) can bring any kind of ID that has barcode on it, like a photo ID, which is not required, or they can present the notice card we mailed to all our voters right before the election, which has a barcode on there," she said. "So they can scan the barcode and their name will show up and they will check them off as voters and initial their names at the bottom of the iPad."
Election judges can manually search the names of voters whose identification does not include a barcode.
As poll workers get more familiar with the technology, Wheeler-Jones said, the digital check-in will shorten lines on Election Day.
"The average age of a poll worker is like 76, so some people are very familiar with iPads and touch screens and some people are still new to them,” Wheeler-Jones said. "Since this was the first roll out, we are observing and reviewing what problems we had with their learning skills, and we will make those changes at the next training.”
Wheeler-Jones said it cost around $382,000 to stock every precinct with iPads.
“Over a period of time, it’s a savings because we don’t have to print rosters and precinct registers. Right now, we are using (them) in some cases because this is so new. Eventually, we won’t have to do that,” she said.
The technology also shortens the time needed to update the city’s voter records from a few weeks to a few days. That will allow the election board to reduce the number of temporary workers needed after elections. Printing and labor cost at least $25,000 per election, and there can be as many as four elections a year.
St. Louis County election officials hope to use similar technology for November's general election. Eric Fey, the Democratic director of the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners, said the county has requests out to vendors. Bids are due March 25.
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