Election judges are making digital upgrade
By Anna Jauhola
Election judges will be taking new equipment for a test drive during the primary election, which is set for Tuesday, Aug. 9.
In Kittson County, there are three polling places — Hallock City Hall, Karlstad Community Center and the courthouse. Election judges at each location will be using Poll Pads this year to register and confirm voters. In the past, judges used a physical book to look up, record and register voters.
“So when voters come in, the election workers won’t have that big book to flip through anymore,” said Suzann Duschene, county elections manager. “This will be quicker for them to look up people.”
The county commission approved purchasing these Poll Pads, which are iPads specifically designed and programmed for election use, during a February 2022 meeting. The county paid for the equipment using Helping America Vote Act (HAVA) funds. The cost was about $14,000 and the county had more than $17,000 in funding available.
This is Duschene’s first election overall. She will run the Poll Pads at the courthouse. April Klecker and Tracy Larson will operate the central county machine at the courthouse. Judges for Hallock and Karlstad are training this week, Duschene said.
It’s an easy system to navigate as the main page directs judges to type in the last name and first name of a voter, which takes them directly to that person’s registration. The machine prints out a ticket which the voter brings to the next judge who hands the voter a ballot.
Registering voters or doing a change of address is a similarly simple process, Duschene said. Judges follow directions on the Poll Pads, entering information provided by the voter.
The voting process itself will remain the same with paper ballots, which are placed in a ballot counting machine at each location.
“The Poll Pads just makes the check-in process faster and they don’t have to waste time going through names in a book,” Duschene said.
On top of that, the end of election night will also be much faster. Data collected through the ballot counting machines is stored on a small USB jump drive.
After 8 p.m. on Election Day, the judges can pack everything up, bring the machines and materials back to the courthouse, and deliver the jump drive to download voting information — both votes and how many people voted. The number of people voting was also manually counted and recorded. Duschene said the county has a new computer and election software for that as well. This will allow election workers to submit results in an even more timely manner to the state, she said.
“We still double check and go over the results. The machines print out a huge paper receipt for the total, so we’ll still double check because it’s all about checks and balances for an election,” Duschene said. “This just makes things faster and gives quicker results.”
On Election Day, judges will still have physical poll books, just in case something goes wrong, she added. But she does not foresee any major catastrophes.
“It’ll be an adjustment for judges, but once they get used to it, it’ll be quicker,” she said. “I’m interested to see how it goes for the primary. It’s a good test run.”
The general election, which is set for Tuesday, Nov. 8, will follow the same process. Voters in the cities of Hallock and Karlstad vote at their respective polling places. Everyone else in the county can either vote by their mail-in ballots or vote at the courthouse.