The Free Press, Mankato, MN


May 9, 2014

Our View: Improve election technology

Why it matters: Attempts to begin use of electronic pollbooks appears to have been stalled by minor issues at the Legislature

In a day and age when our information technology systems can track everything from TV viewing habits to what kind of toothpaste we buy, it would seem obvious to streamline our cumbersome paper-chasing voter registration and verification system.

The Minnesota House and Senate were making attempts to do just that this week introducing the idea of e-pollbooks or electronic pollbooks that would rely on the swiping of one’s drivers license to help register people to vote and track eligible voters.

Both houses had earlier approved legislation to set up a study of electronic pollbooks and measure their accuracy and efficiency.

Some 27 states already use e-pollbooks to help register people to vote and/or check their registration. The electronic books would reduce the need for the handling of paper verification cards and bulky hard-copy pollbooks that are now used at hundreds of polling places in Minnesota.

They would reduce the need for the election judges handling multiple pieces of paper. Pre-registered votes would simply swipe their drivers license into a machine that would match it against their electronic registration record at the state, and allow them to vote without use of bulky pollbook.

Proponents say the e-poll-books would significantly reduce same day registration paperwork.

Under the e-pollbook plan, voters would still have to sign a piece of paper or sticker, but the swiping of the drivers license would eliminate the need for a search for registered voters through bulky hard copy voter registration books.

Unfortunately, the House and Senate versions of the bill were slightly different so as to prevent the conference committee from moving forward with the new law.

That doesn’t mean counties can’t test and use them, it means there may not be any statewide standard for their use.

We urge the committee to work out the small differences. Adopting pollbooks seems like it would improve the efficiency and accuracy of our election system and statewide standards are necessary if we are to create and fair and uniform registration and election system.

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