New system will make voters swipe their IDs

Aug 12, 2011

The following article was published in the Daytona Beach News Journal on August 12, 2011:

New system will make voters swipe their ID’s

By Andrew Gant

A new voting system in Volusia County will mean less work for poll workers and more for machines — computers that can identify voters with the swipe of a driver’s license and are already common in counties across Florida, including Flagler.

“It’s not only going to save dollars, but it’s going to save possible fraud,” elections head Ann McFall said Thursday of the system on its way to Volusia: EViD, or the Electronic Voter Identification System. The new voting process, instead of requiring voters to sign in on a precinct register, will have many of them swiping their licenses like credit cards instead.

“This is a real, real popular piece of equipment,” McFall said. “You’re going to see it in every one of the counties in the next five years. We were waiting for all the little chinks to be worked out of it.”

McFall hopes to have EViD in all of Volusia’s 179 voting precincts sometime next year, ideally in time for the Aug. 14 primary elections. And she wants the systems hooked up to special “ballot-on-demand” printers at the county’s five early-voting sites, meaning she won’t have to estimate how many ballots to order ahead of time. They’ll print as needed.

The system works like this: A registered voter comes to his polling place and steps up to an EViD station, which resembles the credit-card swiper at a gas station or supermarket. He hands over his license to be swiped, and the system checks to be sure he hasn’t already voted. If he’s at the wrong voting precinct, it prints him a message sending him to the right one.

(If he doesn’t have a driver’s license, a poll worker can input other information, like a birthdate, into the system to match up identity.)

Once matched, the voter signs an electronic signature pad, and the system prints out a ticket indicating which ballot he needs.

Meanwhile, staff at the main office will be able to monitor voting activity at each precinct in real time.

Officials here and elsewhere say the system cuts the risk of duplicate votes and speeds up the vote-gathering process — both during the vote and after, when workers have to update individual voting records.

The connection to automated ballot printers will be especially helpful during early voting because those ballots vary widely. Each precinct has at least three ballots — Republican, Democratic or no party affiliation — and many more if the precinct is split because redistricting lines for representation don’t match lines for election precints. McFall said some precincts in Volusia County are split eight times.

EViD will cost the county about $1 million, McFall said. Those units are already approved and on their way here. Next week, the County Council will discuss spending about $215,000 on the printing system and software for early-voting stations.

EViD units are already in place in Flagler County, where elections supervisor Kimberle Weeks said she has 17 units and has been asking for more.

“They really expedite the check-in process, and they help you on the end side of it, updating voter records, which can be really time-consuming,” she said.

In smaller Nassau County, north of Jacksonville, EViD is the only way to check in to vote. And in Walton County, in the Panhandle, voting systems coordinator Ryan Messer said the systems eased crowded lines at two of the county’s busiest precincts.

“We had a large precinct that we were a little concerned with the amount of voters that were in it, and the possibility of long lines,” Messer said, “and we were looking at possibly splitting the precincts up. But the EViDs came along, and it really took away the problems we were having.”

Some of the elections staff here hope the system is ready for a test run in time for the Jan. 31 presidential primary, but McFall said she’s not sure if that’s possible. The swiper units are expected to arrive within the next two months.

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