Chicago introduces Electronic Poll Books

At Tuesday’s Primary Election, the Chicago Election Board will introduce Electronic Poll Books to check-in voters at all 2,069 precincts in the city, Election Board Chairman Langdon D. Neal announced on Wednesday.

“We are very excited about introducing a networked, digital ‘E Poll Book’ solution,” Neal said. “Our goals with the E Poll Books are to: (1) Streamline voter check-in;
(2) Make our Election Judges’ work more manageable; and (3) Safeguard our elections by uploading the very latest in voter-registration data and Early and Absentee voting records – to every precinct, all before the polls open on Election Day at 6:00 a.m.”

“Simply put, we are replacing the phonebook technology of the past with a networked computer system of the future, a device that can be updated easily in the hour before the voters arrive.  Our Election Judges no longer will need to race to find a voter’s page and use a sticker to indicate when that voter used Early Voting or Absentee Voting,” Neal said.  “Now, if a voter has already cast a ballot, the E Poll Book will show a clear message, highlighted in red.”

“Just as important, E Poll Books give our Judges of Election the ability to guide any voters who arrive in the wrong polling places. Now, the judges will be able to print out that voter’s correct polling place and address.  This will help voters get to the right places to cast ballots that will count – and avoid casting a provisional ballot.”

Last year, the Chicago Election Board issued a long-range Election Infrastructure Plan that identified E Poll Books among the agency’s top priorities.  Last fall, the Chicago City Council approved funding for the E Poll Book project.

Last fall, the Election Board issued a Request for Proposals and received seven responses from all of the nation’s leading E Poll Book vendors.  The Election Board chose Omaha-based Election Systems & Software based on a variety of factors, including the company’s history of providing E Poll Books to statewide election jurisdictions with twice the voter populations of Chicago.

Total project costs for the ES&S project, including warranties and upgrades, are $2.3 million over five years.

“Back when the voter registration rolls closed a month before Election Day, back before no-excuse Early Voting, before no-excuse Absentee Voting, that was when the paper poll book served its purpose,” Neal noted.  “But the election calendar today is far more complex.  We think it’s going to get even more complicated soon.  Today, we have Grace Period registration and Early Voting programs that run through the Saturday before Election Day.  In the future, we expect that will run through the Monday before Election Day.  The only way to manage those updates responsibly is through a networked E Poll Book solution.

Neal said that another goal of the Election Board was to introduce the technology as soon as possible citywide.  “In November, we will have a statewide election, and immediately after that in February, we will have a Municipal Election.  This Primary Election was clearly the best alternative to roll out new technology.”

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