Voters in precincts across the state may notice something new when they visit their polling locations to vote in next week’s primary elections. Instead of long, alphabetized lists of registered voters, poll workers will now use digital tablets that can pull up a voter’s information and confirm receipt of a ballot with a simple scan of a photo ID. The technology, called a Poll Pad, was first piloted in select precincts in Rhode Island in 2016 and will be implemented statewide for the first time next week. Poll workers tested out the new system during a training class held at Woonsocket City Hall Aug. 23. As Amy Farrell, a trainer with the Rhode Island Board of Elections, points out, the technology eliminates the need for paper poll books along with much of the human error that can come along with the manual check-in process.
“Gone are the days of paper books when we flip through stickers (and) have to guess name spellings,” she tells a room full of about 50 poll workers. “Those days are gone. We’ve now moved into the 21st century.”
On the tables are about 25 lime green plastic cases with the words “Poll Pad” printed across the front. Each box contains a specially outfitted Apple iPad along with a stand, card scanning tray and backup power cable. The Poll Pads, Farrell explains, are linked through a cellular connection with every device in the state and, once powered up, display a running count of the number of registered voters who have checked in in the precinct and statewide.