DeForest’s new poll-book system looks to decrease wait times on the front and back ends of election day.
Badger Books, an electronic poll book system recently developed by the state of Wisconsin, is a comprehensive booking database that’s been piloted in communities across the state this year. DeForest will have nine of the machines for Aug. 14 primary voting.
DeForest Village Clerk LuAnn Leggett said the machines will create efficiencies for both voters and poll workers. Badger Books allows for easier voter identification and registration verification on vote day, plus automated roll updates into the WisVote system.
Leggett said she expects the administrative processes that follows a large election day to be reduced from weeks to days. And with concerns of voter-data meddling prevalent across the country, Leggett said she is confident in the security of Badger Books, which transfers poll data via a closed and encrypted network.
“They’re safe,” Leggett said. “They’re not connected to the internet.”
The Badger Books program runs on a touch-screen tablet and utilizes a Hewlett-Packard point-of-sale unit as its main piece of hardware. Two variations of the Badger Books system are available for purchase and cost either $1,960 or $1,985, depending on the model. One model comes with an unattached receipt printer.
Badger Books entered development last year, and a pilot program was rolled out in a handful of municipalities earlier this year, said Wisconsin Elections Commission Public Information Officer Reid Magney.
“The first deployment in real polling places was in April … and then based on the feedback, we made some more tweaks,” Magney said. Those tweaks, Magney said, have led to a more refined system that’s ready to be utilized across the state.
Individual municipalities decide whether or not to purchase the new technology, and because of the price to buy multiple Badger Books machines, Magney said the system might not be a good fit for every town, village and city.
“Think of Madison,” Magney said. “Implementing (Badger Books) across the city would be quite expensive because you’d need several terminals at every polling location.”
Likewise, Magney said, smaller jurisdictions might also struggle to see the benefit of Badger Books versus its cost.
“A very small town may not have enough voters to justify this,” he said.
Sun Prairie was one of the pilot locations during April voting. City Clerk Elena Hilby said the pilot was a success, and now the city has purchased 20 of the Badger Books systems following a $35,000 budget initiative.
Hilby said there will be five at each of the city’s polling locations come Aug. 14.
“It went really well, actually really smooth,” said Hilby. “We got nothing but good feedback from both poll workers and voters who were using the machines that day.”
She said the new system cut registration times approximately in half, from around two minutes to around one minute. Of the 1,322 voters who used the system that day, Hilby said 72 were automatically prompted to register by Badger Books program.
“You’re talking about a minute to get someone through, versus two minutes … but it all adds up,” Hilby said.
“I think they’re going to be great,” Hilby added. “We’re excited to use them in Sun Prairie, too.”
Also for August voting, Windsor has its own new equipment – the ExpressVote, a touch-screen ballot-marking device. According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the ExpressVote machine allows voters to choose between a hand-marked paper ballot and the ExpressVote, which prints out paper ballots that are inserted into a scanner.
ExpressVote – which Windsor officials said cost $3,689 each – also makes voting easier for citizens with disabilities. It is fully ADA compliant, allowing for voting from a seated or standing position. There is a keypad equipped with Braille lettering for the blind.
Windsor has been using an ExpressVote machine since February, said Windsor Deputy Clerk/Deputy Treasurer Kadie Jo Butteris. She said the machine has seen limited usage, although the village wants that to change – ExpressVote helps voters avoid errors, she said.
“It prevents you from crossing over and voting for another party,” Butteris said, which could nullify a voter’s cast.
Two of the machines are in the village office, plus one at each of the village’s two polling locations.
The 2018 Wisconsin partisan primary decides candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative, plus all odd-numbered state Senate seats and all state Assembly seats. Voting is Aug. 14.