New Tech Promises to Shorten Lines at Polling Stations

Researchers are investigating technology that will enable poll workers to check in voters electronically.
by Michelle Firestone, The Chronicle | September 17, 2019 AT 3:02 AM

(TNS) - Election Day requires quite a bit of preparation and planning for poll workers.

But with the help of new technology, the process may soon become more efficient in the state of Connecticut.

Led by Alexander Russell, a group of researchers at the University of Connecticut Center for Voting Technology Research (VoTeR Center) are investigating technology that will enable poll workers to check- in voters electronically.

“ One of the most timeconsuming parts of the election for the registrars is that, at the end of the election, they have to enter it into an election database of all the people who voted,” said Russell, who has been director of the VoTeR Center for about a year.

Russell, a computer science professor at UConn, studies the security of voting technology.

He has been working at UConn since 1999 and has been a principal researcher at the center since 2006, becoming director of the center last September.

“Any time the state is trying to select a new voting machine or a new pollbook, they ask us to do security audits for the new machine,” Russell said.

He said, last year, auditing software was used to audit voting precincts across the state.

While, last year, there was a gubernatorial and other state office election, this year, local candidates are running for office during the election, which is Nov. 5.

“We carry out the auditing every year and, in the past, we have audited only the official, statewide elections,” Russell said. “In the past, we have not audited primaries, but that’s certainly something we could consider doing in the future.”

If all goes well, registrars may soon be using electronic pollbooks, or “epollbooks,” which typically come in the form of a laptop or tablet, to check in voters.

VoTeR employees are also currently looking into new technology to tabulate votes. Russell said the current tabulators are a decade old. “ One of the major activities that we are looking forward to next year is basically auditing the current entries on the tabulator market to make sure we can find something we’re satisfied with,” he said.

Russell said it is “ very important” to have paper ballots and then have a machine that counts the ballots.

“ There are tabulators that are still on the market that don’t do this,” he said.

Russell said there are tabulators on which people vote on a touch screen.

He said when using technology during an event as critical as the election, it is “extremely important to err on the side of safety” rather than convenience.

©2019 The Chronicle (Willimantic, Conn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.