A new voting system saves time at the polls, leaves a desired paper trail and saves time for the county clerk's office in processing results.
Determining how the voters in Pratt County marked their ballots Tuesday took a lot less time than it did to determine who won the Republican race for governor in Kansas. With Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer in a virtual tie at 41 percent of the votes, it may take some time to officially declare a winner in the race that has Kobach with a 191 vote lead over Colyer.
It may take some time to determine the winner but determining the Pratt city and county election results only took about an hour and a half thanks to some new voting equipment.
When voters arrived at the polls Tuesday, they immediately noticed changes in the room set up at both polling stations.
Voters were directed to a table where new electronic poll pads scanned their driver’s licenses. The pads read the information and the voter was asked if they wanted a paper ballot or to vote on one of the voting machines, said Lori Voss, deputy county clerk.
This is the first time the new system has been used. They county got the system about a month ago and have been training on it for this first real world use in an election. The old system was fairly old and it was time to replace it.
The new system has not been mandated but it is the way voting is heading.
“It hasn’t been mandated yet but I think it will be,” Voss said.
Voters seemed to enjoy the new system. Jake Lewis tried electronic voting and said the system was easy to understand. He liked the quickness and ease of the system.
Poll worker Bev Aldrich said the new system seemed much faster and probably more accurate.
Improving the flow at the polling stations is a goal of the system and it appeared to work. Voss said it was a good that this was a smaller election so all the poll workers could get used to the new system.
The poll worker then printed out a paper receipt that resembled a receipt from a convenience store or grocery store. The voter took the paper to a row of five election officials to either get a paper ballot or head to a voting machine, Voss said.
Gone were the big books at each ward and township table where the voter had to sign their name. That was all taken care of on the same electronic pad that scanned the driver’s license. The voter used a special stylus and electronically signed the pad, then moved to their ward or township to get a ballot or proceed to the electronic voting machines with their receipt.
Paper ballots were marked the same way as before but the voting machine was a little different than usual. The voter passed the piece of paper over a scanner and the screen came to life with choices of candidates and parties, Voss said.
Voters simply touched the screen for the candidate of their choice then move to the next screen. If a voter accidentally voted for someone they didn’t intend, it was a simple matter to change the vote. Once the voting was complete, a push of a button created a paper copy of the voters’ choices. If the voter discovered they had voted for someone they didn’t intend, they could speak to an election official and get it corrected.
This was different from the old style of electronic voting where once the ballot was submitted, it could not be retrieved or reviewed.
Whether it was a paper ballot or electronic ballot, both types of voting created a paper trail and that was a goal for this new system. The completed ballots were inserted into a counting machine and the voting process was complete, Voss said.
Besides having a paper trail for each ballot, the new system eliminated some of the work from the old system. The new system creates a paper readout of the ballots at each polling station. There are two polling stations in Pratt, one at the Pratt Community Center on North Main and one at the Church of Christ on Country Club Road. Each station has a machine that reads the ballots and creates a paper readout of the votes. A third unit is in the County Clerk’s office. This creates three paper readouts that are used to determine the outcome of the election, Voss said.
The new system saves time and paperwork. In the old system, each of the electronic voting machines also created a paper readout and that made an additional four readouts that had to be processed. The new system has cut that down to just three paper readouts and it cut the time necessary to get results down to about an hour and a half. That is much faster then the old method.
Starting in 2019, election audits will be required and this new system will help make the audit more efficient, said Pratt County Clerk Sherry Kruse.