Technology — worth the upfront cost?

Election officials walk a fine line when they implement new technology for an upcoming election. They must decide if new devices are worth the cost, ensure poll workers are adequately trained and determine if voters will find the equipment easy to use.

Electronic poll book, a digital check-in system, is being used in 27 states and the District of Columbia to shorten polling place lines and speed up the process. Using a computer or tablet, poll workers can easily search for a voter’s name, which is faster than flipping through paper voter rolls.

Minnetonka, Minn., has been a pilot city for new technology. It was the first in the state to try optical scan machines and first used electronic poll books in 2009, still the only city in the state to use poll books.

City Clerk David Maeda said other election officials see the cost as too great to buy laptops and software for an electronic poll book.

“A lot of people look at the upfront costs and say you can’t spend the money, but you have to look long term,” he said. “I’ve done return investment work. It shows it pays itself off in a matter of years. I think it’s inevitable to use this technology statewide.”

By Alia Conley, News21

Elderly voters in Colorado turn to iPads for primary

Elderly voters in Colorado turn to iPads for primary

Bernice Harris, 83, voted in the Colorado primary with the aid of an iPad. Photo by Alia Conley/News21.

Today is Colorado’s primary election, but some Denver residents were able to vote early — not by mail, but with an iPad.

Denver election officials went to senior centers last week and let voters select candidates on paper or on an iPad. Election judges explained how to enlarge the screen image and how to tap the screen to select a candidate.

Bernice Harris, 83, said she hasn’t voted in 10 years, but the technology made it simple.

“It was easy,” she said. “I could see much better. [The election judge] showed me how to use it.”

Harris, who has lived at St. Paul Health Center for three years, said she would like to use an iPad to vote in November.

Through Monday evening, more than 400,000 ballots had been returned, and the majority of Colorado counties choose to vote by mail for the primary.

By Alia Conley, News21