News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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January 29, 2014

Video: Election board OKs ballot change

New voting equipment to be demonstrated

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Election Board Wednesday adopted a resolution to permit the central counting of absentee ballots.

The measure was needed as a state law for counties using vote centers was changed in July, shortly after Vigo County submitted its vote center plan to the state of Indiana, said Vigo County Clerk Dave Crockett.

“All absentee votes will come [to the county courthouse] to be counted instead of being sent back to the precincts,” Crockett said. “If there were 15 absentee ballots from Precinct 1A and 40 from Fayette, now all of those will be counted here at election headquarters instead of someone having to take those back to the precincts.”

The measure, Crockett said, will also reduce costs as the county does not have to pay people to take ballots back out to the precincts. “Every little bit that we can save is a savings,” Crockett said.

Starting with the May Primary Election, voters will cast a ballot using a touch screen. The Election Board has 12 demonstrations scheduled to help voters know how to cast a vote. Any agency or organization seeking to host a demonstration should contact the Vigo County Clerk’s office at 812-462-3214.

The first six demonstrations are scheduled at the Vigo County Public Library, to be held the first two Saturdays in the months of February, March and April.

This election marks the first time Vigo County voters will use a touchscreen to cast a ballot.

The process is simple.

After a voter checks in by signing an electronic poll book, the voter is given a slim piece of paper called an “application to vote” which contains the name of the voter and precinct of the voter. The voter gives that paper to an election judge.

The judge will initiate the voting process by entering a pass code, said Janet Buchanan of RBM Consulting, the company the Election Board selected to provide the voting machines and electronic poll books.

The code will automatically select the correct ballot for the voter on a voting screen. The voter will see instructions on how to vote. The voter then uses an arrow button to move through the voting process.

The voter will press a box next to the name of the candidate of choice. Once all voting is done, the voter will hit “print.” The voter, by state law, will be asked to review their ballot.

If a mistake is made, the voter can correct the vote on the screen.

When completed, the voter hits the word “print” again and a narrow ballot is printed. The vote then puts the ballot into a vote machine which counts the vote and scans an image of the ballot.

The system provides the county with a paper ballot, an electronic scan of that ballot as well as a vote county for each machine.

The Unisyn voting machine and Decision Support electronic poll books are each certified by the State of Indiana.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Tuesday that electronic poll book systems Decision Support, Hart InterCivic and Election Systems and Software have been certified for use in Indiana.

“Indiana is the first state in the nation to develop standards for this new frontier of technology,” Lawson said in a release. “We have become leaders in modernizing the electoral process. First, we gave every county the option to use ePollBooks and now we are protecting Hoosier voters as they sign in by ensuring only the best quality ePollBooks are used in Indiana.”

The new ePollBook system is an electronic, modernized version of the traditional paper poll list, which has been used for decades.  With traditional paper poll lists, poll workers compare a voter’s ID with the names on the list before issuing a ballot. The voter then signs the list next to their name and indicates whether or not the voter’s address has changed.

The new ePollBooks will scan the bar code on the back of a voter’s driver’s license to permit poll workers to efficiently locate the voter’s record and to ensure the voter gets the correct ballot. The voter will then sign an electronic signature pad.

“The ePollBook has been used in Indiana since the 2007 vote center pilot program,” Lawson said in a statement. “Now, all counties have the option to use ePollBooks. Statewide standards will help county officials make sure they purchase the best equipment and give Hoosier voters confidence in their counties election equipment.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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