The Times photo by Betsy Reason // NEW BOOKS: Steve Peachey, voting machine technician for Hamilton County, and Kathy Richardson, the county’s election administrator, display the new iPad-based electronic poll books that speed up the process for registered voters.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason // NEW BOOKS: Steve Peachey, voting machine technician for Hamilton County, and Kathy Richardson, the county’s election administrator, display the new iPad-based electronic poll books that speed up the process for registered voters.

New iPad-based electronic poll books are speeding up the process for registered voters who early vote as well as those who will vote on Election Day on Tuesday.

Hamilton County’s new Poll Pad steps up the check-in time for registered voters by scanning their driver’s license or Voter ID cards.

The new self-contained wireless technology also means poll workers can do away with bulky alphabetical voting lists.

“People are signing in using iPads instead of poll books, and we’re using styluses instead of ink pens, so we’re saving paper,” said poll worker Chuck Turean, 65, Noblesville, who, alongside poll worker Steve Zell, 67, Cicero, each had use of an electronic poll book to check in registered voters during early voting on Saturday at the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center in Noblesville.

“This is faster, more efficient, and there are safeguards built in so we know who the voter is, and they’re at the right spot. We’re checking names, street addresses and date of birth. This is very good technology; We’re very happy with it,” Turean said of the new Poll Pad, which has been used since early voting started on April 10.

Friday was their busiest day, though Saturday was “very active,” Zell said. On Saturday, between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., together they had processed a total 178 registered voters, which did not include three satellite locations that were open in Fishers, Carmel and Westfield.

Zell said election officials, on Election Day, would be able to determine that all of the electronic poll books are up and running and if any poll books are having an issue, and if any poll workers are late starting when they should be up and running.

Turean said another perk is turnaround time, from the time that the Election Day polls close, to the time that they’ve packed up at each of the precincts, which should be greatly minimized.?He and Zell have worked alongside each other for four years during early voting, and before that, Turean had prior experience working the polls on Election Day.

Both have heard many positive responses from this year’s voters who like the easy check-in process, which takes about a minute per registered voter.

“With the elimination of paper and poll books, the accuracy is second to none,” Zell said. “We can check a signature, balance it against what is in the voter registration file….We can inspect for expired licenses…..Election Day will be greatly simplified,” said Zell, 67, Cicero, in his ninth year working the early voting polls. (A driver’s license must either be current or have expired sometime after the date of the last General Election).

Plus, when the driver’s license is scanned, the electronic poll book can also easily check to see if a registered voter has already early voted.

Zell and Turean said many curious voters have inquired, asking if poll workers could see election results. But that’s one thing that poll workers can’t do, they said. “There is no access to see who is ahead in the polls,” Zell said.

The county spent about $440,000 to purchase 240 of the iPad-based Poll Pads with specialized software, by Knowink, and is now among 60 of 92 counties in Indiana using electronic poll books. The Poll Pads will be at all precinct locations on Election Day.

“We have been excited because of a lot of efficiencies it helps with,” said Kathy Richardson, the county’s election administrator, who introduced the new technology at four poll-worker training sessions last week.

“If someone comes to your polling place and they’re at the wrong site, you can look it up and tell them where they can go to their proper precinct,” she said.

Prior to having the electronic poll books, she said, “You had to call the Election Office,” where the phones usually are “ringing off the hook... to get that information.”

Now, voters who go to the wrong precinct will receive a printed receipt with the proper precinct. “They can walk out of there with the address for their polling place,” Richardson said.

Also prior to the Poll Pad, employees spent a couple of weeks scanning all of the names of people who voted from the bulky poll books. Now, on Election night, those registered voters’ names are already in there. Also, before the Poll Pad, sheriff deputy couriers had to go out and get absentee information. “We done away with that,” she said.

“Every time we’d think about something, we say, ‘Oh, we don’t have to do that anymore. So we’re learning our way through it. This fall will be even better.”

The 1,100 poll workers were required to attend one of four training sessions last week. Two training sessions were conducted on Saturday.

That’s where I found Richardson, with Steve Peachey, the county’s voting machine technician, who both led the trainings, which each lasted nearly two hours, including time to get hands-on up-close time with the new electronic poll books. The Poll Pads were then packed up and sent out with poll workers in large lime-green protective cases, some poll workers with smiles and some grumbling with reluctance, having to learn something new.

Richardson said Hamilton County is “kind of converting from a precinct-type election to a poll-site election.” For example, rather than focusing on Precinct 10, the focus is on Precincts 10 and 13 together at a location. Richardson expects the county to, eventually, move toward Election Day vote centers, in which registered voters are provided more polling locations to choose from on Election Day.

“Marion County is looking at doing vote centers. We’d really would like to observe that and learn off of that,” she said. 

Of the state’s four largest counties – Marion, Lake, Allen and Hamilton -- Marion County will be the first to try the vote centers.

Of the county’s 230,869 registered voters, 5,162 people, or two percent, have already voted. This includes 3,717 early voters, 296 traveling voters, 1,133 voters by mail and 16 voters via email.?Those numbers are “typical for this type of an election cycle,” she said. “We are ahead of 2014, probably double. Keep in mind it (2014) was a low turnout year because there were no federal offices at the top of the ticket … We did 11,000 (early voters) in 2016 (of 200,211 registered voters) in the primary.

Early voting is open today, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Judicial Center.

Tuesday is Primary Election Day in Indiana. The polls are open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The new Poll Pads will help workers start counting absentees earlier, with absentee results posted at 6 p.m., Richardson said. “...If there is a light turnout and with the Poll Pads and not having to manually reconcile the paper poll books, hopefully we could be finished by 9 p.m. But it always depend on how quickly the precincts get their results in.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.