During the June 3 Statewide Direct Primary Election, under my direction, the Nevada County Elections Office launched an exploratory pilot to experience the potential benefits of electronic poll books in polling locations across Nevada County.
These electronic poll books, or e-poll books, replace our paper roster system with efficient touch-screen tablets uploaded with a comprehensive electronic roster of the county’s registered voters.
This electronic roster system makes the paper process for check-in obsolete and instead transforms it into an automatic process, increasing speed and accuracy.
The purpose of the e-poll book pilot was to test the expected benefits against the actual benefits that can be achieved with the introduction of this technology.
Through this pilot, we were able to trial the new hardware and software, gaining knowledge, experience, and feedback while continuing to adhere to routine Election Day protocol pursuant to the California Elections Code.
Twenty five e-poll books from two competing brands were distributed across Nevada County polling locations. Two of these polling locations hosted both brands of e-poll books to generate a comparative assessment.
Overall, the dual pilot was a success. The e-poll books performed very well and it was clearly demonstrated that there is substantial benefit in purchasing and implementing these devices county-wide.
Some of the actual benefits derived from the use of the e-poll books are as follows:
— Expedient uploading of voter information pre-election; reducing the quantity and cost of supplemental rosters.
— Faster check-in of voters at most polling locations.
— Ability to easily redirect voters to the correct polling location, reducing the number of provisional ballots issued (savings potential of $18,000 per election).
— Ability of the e-poll book to prompt poll workers how to correctly process individual voters.
— Easier Election Day for poll workers, smoother end-of-night accounting and balancing.
— Reduction in telephonic traffic to Elections Office on Election Day (reducing temporary staff).
— Faster reporting of election results.
— Expedient uploading of voter information post-election.
— Elimination of scanning voter history by hand, accelerating the canvass period (savings potential of $3,000 per election).
Surveys conducted at polling places reported a favorable opinion of the e-poll books by poll workers and voters. Poll workers reported the average time spent processing a voter decreased, set-up and closing were easier and 100 percent of surveyed poll workers considered the e-poll book to be a helpful tool.
The ability to easily redirect voters to their correct polling place was the number one benefit which addresses the number one issue for polling place voters on election day.
Through this endeavor, the Elections Office was able to vet two separate brands of e-poll books, giving us the information vital for a comparative assessment.
We now have the knowledge to recognize the full potential of e-poll books in Nevada County and distinguish which product and features will best meet the needs of the County moving forward.
Many of the benefits associated with the introduction of the e-poll book are directly associated with a reduction in cost and labor over time. Besides the expected benefits, there are also other unforeseen benefits which were realized through the course of the pilot.
One unforeseen benefit of the e-poll books is that we are able to gather more local data from the polling locations than we have ever been able to capture before. This data is readily available to create detailed post-election reports.
These reports will allow us to better manage the polling places by supplying us with data which will help us immensely with deployment of resources, i.e. staffing, machines, etc.
Additionally, we will have the ability to directly communicate with polling locations through each device.
This capability would allow elections staff to answer any questions in real time and keep track of the polling locations throughout the day via a virtual dashboard.
We would be able to manage ballot inventory and be notified of shortages in advance. This function would allow the Elections Office to have influence and oversight as to the activities of polling locations across the County.
It is clear that e-poll books will be a valuable addition to the elections process in Nevada County. All expected benefits were achieved during the pilot, and many more are being realized.
The introduction of this technology could generate a savings of $39,000 per election; or $195,000 for five elections. We look forward to making a decision on one brand of e-poll books and working with that company to achieve a product catered to the needs of Nevada County and its voters.
Gregory J. Diaz is the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder for the Registrar of Voters.