There might be no way to soften the polarizing nature of this year’s presidential candidates, but some Alabama election officials have high hopes that new technology will smooth the way for voters this November. The Alabama Secretary of State’s office is backing a trial program that will deploy an iPad-based system at some polling places throughout the state. The tablets won’t take the place of conventional voting machines, but they will be used to check voters in, replacing the conventional bulky printouts of voter lists – and, proponents say, taking some human error out of the equation. It’s a pilot program, so most voters won’t see it. According to the secretary of state’s office, indications are that more than half the state’s 67 counties will opt to take part, with each using it at a limited number of polling places. Early adopters include Barbour, Hale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Morgan and Shelby counties.
In Mobile County, for example, voters will encounter the system at only two locations. Out of three county commissioners, two backed the trial while one specifically requested it not be implemented in her district. That split illustrates both the voluntary nature of the trial, and the fact that not everyone is ready to embrace the change.
… With the Poll Pad setup from St. Louis-based KNOWiNK, you’ll find that first table stocked with iPads in special racks. They’re not broken down into alphabetically lanes, so you’ll go to whichever line is shortest. Then you’ll drop your driver license in a tray in the iPad stand, it’ll scan the bar code on the back and bring up your information. “It’s an instant pop-up and the poll worker just verifies that you are that person,” said John C. Bennett, deputy chief of staff for Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
You sign in on the touchscreen, and the system prints out a receipt specifying which ballot you get. You take that to the second table. (Supporters say that if you’ve come to the wrong polling place, the receipt actually will tell you which one you’re supposed to go to.) You get your ballot and you vote.