State develops 'electronic poll books' for election
October 31, 2019
GILLETTE — If all goes according to plan, the primary election in August 2020 could look a little different from past elections, not just for voters but also for people working behind the scenes.
The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office hopes to have new election equipment in place in time for the next Wyoming primary election.
Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders said the office is developing its own electronic poll book that allows voters to sign in electronically. It would replace the paper poll books that are now in use.
With the e-poll books, people will go to their polling place and check in on a computer. If they are registered and their address is correct, they will get a sticker, which they will bring to a table according to their precinct. They’ll get a paper ballot and then vote as usual.
“There’s just some things that you don’t need to do digitally,” said Commissioner Mark Christensen.
The e-poll books catch people who have already voted, as well as felons, non-citizens and other people who shouldn’t be voting, said elections clerk Kendra Anderson.
Laramie, Teton and Natrona counties use e-poll books and they also have vote centers, where any voter can vote at any polling place regardless of precinct. Saunders said that during every election, there are some people from rural areas who try to vote at Cam-plex because they won’t make it back to their home polling place in time.
They’re unable to vote at Cam-plex because their ballots aren’t there, Saunders said. But with e-poll books, their records will be available anywhere in the county. All they’d have to do is fill out a card and put it into a machine, which will print out a ballot for them.
While the Secretary of State would foot the bill for the new election equipment, there are other costs associated with the change.
With electronic poll books comes a lot of work for county IT departments, Anderson said, from cybersecurity effort to making sure each polling place has good connectivity.
Laramie County has an IT person on site at “almost every one of their polling places,” just in case something goes wrong, Saunders said.
Commission Chairman Rusty Bell said that while he likes the idea of the e-poll books, he struggles with situations like this one, where the state authorizes a change that local governments have to pay to implement.
Saunders said some counties won’t be moving to e-poll books because they don’t have the money to do so.
“Eventually, though, it’s going to happen, whether we get it free from the state or pay for it through a vendor,” Anderson said.