County buying new poll books, nixing touchscreen vote machines

0
301

GREENFIELD — Hancock County voters won’t have to use touch-screen machines the county piloted last fall for this year’s elections, the clerk says. For now, they’ll stick with paper ballots.

With the May primary just around the corner, county officials are making sure election equipment is ready and in place for early voting to begin on April 9 in the Hancock County Courthouse.

Hancock County Clerk Lisa Lofgreen said the election office and election board chose not to fully introduce ExpressVote machines after last fall’s early-voting pilot program. Not as many voters as anticipated liked using the touch-screen devices, she said. Last year, the county bought 12 devices at a cost of $39,234, according to the Jan. 10, 2018, Hancock County Council meeting minutes.

Instead of purchasing ExpressVote machines for all vote centers, Lofgreen said she plans to buy new electronic poll books, devices election workers use to check in voters. Hancock County will spend $87,364 to purchase 35 KNOWiNK e-poll books from Indianapolis-based MicroVote. That price also includes new printers, a router that connects to all of the machines as well as scanners, Lofgreen said.

The county signed a four-year contract with MicroVote, which includes up-front costs associated with the machines. The only annual expenses for the poll books, Lofgreen said, includes software licensing and maintenance, a data plan and additional supplies. Lofgreen said the county traded in the old electronic poll books to reduce the overall cost by about $2,500.

Johnson County, which fired its longtime election vendor, Election Systems and Software, after an Election Day issue that left hundreds of voters disenfranchised, has also purchased KNOWiNK e-poll books, according to the Daily Journal in Franklin. The county’s e-poll books failed to work during last year’s election.

Lofgreen said Hancock County switched its e-poll book vendor from ES and S to MicroVote but will retain ES and S for its tabulator and Balotar, a machine that prints off paper ballots.

The 12 ExpressVote machines will still be used for voters with hearing or visual impairments to comply with the Help America Vote Act, Lofgreen said. Each vote center will have a touch-screen device available.

Lofgreen said poll workers will get trained on the new e-poll books during this year’s election cycle in preparation for the 2020 presidential election.

“We’re hopeful that it’s going to move the process along more quickly for voters standing in line,” she said.

When voters previously gave election workers their picture ID, most commonly a driver’s license, the worker would type in the voter’s name manually and search for their information, double checking the name on the device with the license, said Robin Spille, election deputy.

With the new e-poll books, workers will scan the person’s driver’s license, which instantly verifies the voter, Lofgreen said. It’s also much more efficient and takes less time than past practices, she said.

Once voters get checked-in, Lofgreen said they’ll receive a ticket with their precinct and other information, which a worker will scan into the Balotar. The poll books and Balotar also won’t be connected like in previous elections, Lofgreen said, which adds another level of election security.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Early voting” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Early voting in Hancock County kicks-off at 8 a.m. April 9 at the Hancock County Courthouse, 9 E. Main St. in Greenfield. Weekday hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Early voting ends May 6 at noon.

The county will have three additional early vote centers to open April 22. The Hancock County Board of Commissioners will need to approve the locations before they can be announced, said Hancock County Clerk Lisa Lofgreen.

[sc:pullout-text-end]