ID Scanners Showing Up in More Polling Places to Speed Up Election Lines
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
ANAMOSA, Iowa - ID scanners are increasingly showing up at polling sites to allow voters to quickly check in at the polls. And those who go to the polls in eastern Iowa are more likely than ever to run into the optional devices. At least ten counties in the eastern half of the state will have machines to scan IDs at either all or some of the polling places.
Jones County will have two of the scanners in place at each of 14 polling locations. Just recently, voters who showed up at the polls would sign in while a poll watcher thumbed through a paper list to verify name, address and voting status.
For those counties that have made the electronic switch, the system consists of a barcode scanner hooked up to a laptop computer. Voters who offer up a driver’s license or a voter registration card can breeze through the process quicker. The scanner reads the hidden information on the barcode and compares it to a voting list.
Jones County Auditor Janine Sulzner said if it takes a minute to sign in a voter at the polls with the old system, the scanner can do the same thing in about 20 seconds. It may not sound like a lot of time saved. But if you multiply it by the hundreds of people who vote at a typical precinct, it may move the lines a lot quicker.
Sulzner said poll workers who’ve experimented with the system were impressed by a number of features. “How quick it was and how easily they found voters in the program. Otherwise, it’s a manual search process and you have to type it in correct and push the right buttons. It makes it that much faster for them and more accurate,” Sulzner said.
Sulzner said Jones County practiced with the new scanners at the primary elections in June. It was a voluntary process then and will be again next Tuesday on November 6th. Voters who don’t offer up a driver’s license or a voter registration card with barcode at the check in can use the normal procedure.
But Marion Redmond, who was filling out an absentee ballot on Thursday, said she could see how using the scanners would speed up voting lines. “You got to fill out a paper, sign your name and then they send you to the booth and you come back and give it to one person and then another person. It goes through four hands before it gets in the box,” Redmond said.
Auditor Sulzner said the scanners will also speed up the process for those who show up on election day and register to vote for the first time.
Sulzner said the scanners cost about $250 a piece. And cost is one reason some larger counties, like Linn, have held off on making purchases. 45 of Iowa’s 99 counties are using the scanners on a voluntary basis next week. The eastern Iowa list includes Black Hawk, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Clayton, Delaware, Iowa, Jackson, Johnson and Jones.
It is voluntary but is only used for those who vote on election day. The scanners don’t come into play for anyone requesting or returning an absentee ballot.
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