MANCHESTER, NH — On Wednesday a group of city clerks, state reps and election officials glimpsed the future of Election Day, and it was heaven — if heaven is a place where there is no waiting in alphabetized lines, voters can check in at the touch of an iPad, and the nightmare of manually processing post-election checklist paperwork for hours is a thing of the past.
The gathering was held March 30 at City Hall, where a presentation on Poll Pad technology by LHS Associates outlined how New Hampshire could join the 21st century while seeing a significant savings in manpower, time and paper/storage/disposal costs by adopting electronic checklist technology.
That alone was enough to make a seasoned city clerk swoon.
But the added potential for streamlining the voting process, safeguarding against voter fraud and improving the accuracy of information — which would be automatically updated into a statewide checklist system — is one of the more salient selling points for State Rep. Tammy Simmons, R-Manchester, who attended the session.
“It certainly seems this would reduce time on the back end of things at the city clerk’s office, but we also have a problem in the state of New Hampshire with voter fraud, to what degree we don’t know. But if it takes six weeks to find out who voted, that’s not helping us identify where we have problems,” Simmons said. “If we have that information on Election Day, or the day after, you’re more likely to find out who shouldn’t be voting.”
In January, Derek Castonguay pleaded guilty to poll hopping. In February, the NH Attorney General’s office received a complaint of voter fraud involving two Bernie Sanders campaign staffers. And following the February Primary, Project Veritas released a video they say captured voter fraud at various polling places around the state.
In all three instances, an automated checklist system could have likely identified the problems at the registration table.
The system, called Poll Pad, was demonstrated for the group by Scott Leiendecker of KNOWiNK, the company’s “Election Guru,” and former St. Louis City Board of Elections Director. He says he developed the system and launched the company after seeking a fix for what was broken in his jurisdiction — trying to run smooth elections and maintain an updated voter checklist using out-dated tools.
Leiendecker established KNOWiNK, which has partnered with Apple to develop an iPad-based system that simplifies the election process for voters and poll workers alike. The presentation was made in conjunction with LHS Associates, which has been New Hampshire’s election vendor for about 30 years.
The units come with back-up batteries, optional card-swipe devices and can be completely customized to conform to a given state’s particular election law requirements, including signature verification. Once a voter is verified, the poll worker prints out a slip that can be exchanged for a ballot.
If someone shows up to the wrong polling place, the system can generate turn-by-turn directions to guide them to their Ward voting location, which can be sent directly to a smartphone.
Leiendecker said the system was devised based not only on his own experience, but also with guidance from poll workers.
Manchester City Clerk Matthew Normand has already brought the idea forward to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen. At the top of the meeting, Mayor Ted Gatsas said it would be great to have the system in place for the upcoming Presidential election in November.
That was probably an ambitious idea, Normand conceded. But he would like to see if there’s a way to get a pilot program in place in Manchester to test-drive the system in November, something that KnowInk said they would set up at no cost to the city.
“The Board of Mayor and Alderman have already taken a position on this — they want this, and funding has been identified,” said Normand, adding that the system is most cost-effective and efficient if implemented for use statewide.
“An electronic checklist puts the entire ward checklist in front of each ballot inspector as the voter walks into the polls – no more A-D lines, E-J lines, K-N lines. This allows the lines to self-regulate as voters naturally go to the shortest line to check in and receive their ballot,” Normand said.
“If implemented statewide, this would also prevent the ability of a voter to vote in multiple precincts in New Hampshire, because voter turnout data is updated to the statewide voter registration system every 90 seconds. For the municipalities, this has the significant benefit of eliminating months of staff time performing post-election data entry and manual scanning of the checklists because the voter history and turnout is captured in real time and uploaded immediately on Election Day,” Normand said.
Nashua City Clerk Patricia Piecuch said she would like to see Nashua participate in a pilot program, as well. The first order of business is to see whether there are legislative adjustments that need to be made in order to allow pilot programs.
State Representative Simmons and her colleague, Pat Long, D-Manchester, said they would both support a pilot program in Manchester, and will be delving into existing election law to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to the current laws that would allow for an electronic system.
Cost of each Poll Pad unit is $1,200, including back-up battery pack. Putting the system in place in Manchester would require six units per polling place times 12 wards. Long said the city has already identified a funding stream.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, there are jurisdictions in 32 states that currently use e-poll books.
NH Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan, who was there with Assistant Secretary of State Anthony Stevens, said he is in favor of moving forward to explore the possibilities.
“We have to have a realistic time frame for New Hampshire to process everything they need to do to get on board with this,” Scanlan said. “I’d like to see it happen tomorrow, but that’s unrealistic; the fall is stretch — 2018? I would like to say yes.”
During the meeting, Scanlan said the state would have to do its due diligence in researching all available electronic checklist systems and go through an RFP process, which would also take time.
Below: 2013 news report on Poll Pad launch in St. Louis
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