Cuyahoga County's new electronic poll books to begin making their debut in May

Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 20:38:39-05

Cuyahoga County is joining 61 other Ohio counties in replacing the bulky binders of signatures used to sign in voters each election day with what are known as electronic poll books, iPad-sized electronic devices that will be used to check in voters.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections voting this week to purchase 1,450 electronic poll books from Tenex Software Solutions of Tampa, Florida.

"After 18 months of rigorous research, testing, and several pilot projects I am confident we have made the right decision for the system that is most appropriate for Cuyahoga County voters," said Pat McDonald the Director of the Board of Elections.

Electronic poll books will eventually replace the alphabetical paper poll books that are printed for each election.  Voters will be able to use their Ohio driver's licenses or identification cards to check-in at polling locations or to be directed to their correct polling place.

"Voters will receive faster service while lowering the chances of human error. The new electronic poll books will make other election administration functions, including updating voter records, faster and more efficient," said McDonald.

If voters are at the wrong polling locations the machines will show them where to go and will be able to print out directions for them.

Most of the $1.7 million cost of the machines will be paid for by a $12 million State program that encouraged voting jurisdictions to upgrade to electronic poll books.

The electronic method was first introduced in 2015 to less than rave reviews in Hamilton County where 35 percent of polling places reported problems setting up on Election Day with 42 percent of locations having trouble locating voters.

"It wasn't the machines, it was the poll workers themselves who were not properly prepared," said Secretary of State Jon Husted at the time.

On those lessons, Cuyahoga County has gone to school.

"We have already started learning lessons from the issues that they experienced in November of 2015 as they have," said Shantiel Soeder of the Board of Elections. "They've done a lot of enhancements to their training program and basically by waiting we were able to see other large jurisdictions roll out and learn from the mistakes that they could have encountered."

Soeder said education will be the most important part. "We have amazing poll workers who have caught on very quickly to things like electronic voting systems when we switched from our punch card system, so we don't think it will be as big of an issue as it was in other counties because we're learning what to include in the training and what not to include," she said.

The Board plans to phase-in fully functioning electronic poll books starting with the May 2 Primary Election.