A House committee gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow county clerks to begin using electronic pollbooks and vote centers instead of traditional polling places on Election Day. Senate File 52 would allow county clerks to replace their existing paper pollbooks with electronic books for the purposes of keeping track of who is registered to vote, who has voted and where they voted. With electronic pollbooks, clerks would also be able to open “vote centers,” or polling places where anyone in a given jurisdiction can vote on Election Day, regardless of where they live within that jurisdiction. The idea of the bill is to provide better access to voters, particularly for jurisdictions where some far-flung polling places are having trouble staying open due to a lack of election judges. It also, in the case of elementary schools, would help alleviate any safety concerns about interaction between schoolchildren and the voting public.
Laramie County Clerk Debbye Lathrop told members of the House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee that the switchover to electronic pollbooks and vote centers would be entirely optional to each of the state’s 23 county clerks.
Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, questioned how useful the bill would be in smaller communities across the state, calling it a “big city, big county bill.” “It’s completely impractical for smaller counties,” Lindholm said.
Secretary of State Ed Murray acknowledged that SF 52 would not necessarily be workable in some of the state’s more rural communities, where the required secure Internet connection may not be available. But Murray said it would still provide an option for those counties that do wish to do it. “In places like Niobrara County, forget it,” Murray said. “But the beauty is we have an opportunity for those counties who do opt into it to take the voting process into the electronic age; it provides that flexibility to move forward.”