Oktibbeha County voters could soon utilize digital poll books instead of their paper versions in upcoming elections.
Election commissioners will approach supervisors today to purchase roughly $28,000 worth of tablets — or about 30 machines — that will verify where voters live and in which races they should cast their ballots, and encode the card electronic voting machines use to display ballots.
Poll workers currently use large, printed voter rolls to search for a voter’s address and then encode a voting machine’s card to correspond with their proper elections, as many of Oktibbeha County’s 21 precincts are split between multiple districts represented by different county- and state-level positions.
These numerous splits create “seldom but inevitable” human errors, said District 1 Election Commissioner Greg Fulgham.
“Almost every (precinct) has at least one split, with congressional, justice court (and other positions). Our county has more splits than any other county in the state. Some elections, we have had as many as 14 splits at the larger precincts,” he said.
The new machines will automatically retrieve voter information and encode the card, thereby reducing the chance for precinct errors, as the tablets will depend on accurate, pre-loaded information.
Voters will still have to sign in at precincts on a physical book to show their presence at the polls, said Sheryl Elmore, Oktibbeha County’s deputy clerk for elections.
“The reduction in human error will be massive,” Fulgham said. “This system will not only speed up the process but also save time a voter has to wait in time. If the county can justify the upfront cost, I feel the county as a whole will benefit from the upgrade.”
If purchased, at least one machine will be posted at every Oktibbeha Count precinct by August’s primaries for chancery clerk, while poll workers at Starkville’s largest precincts will have multiple on hand for elections, District 2 Election Commissioner Sissy Smitherman said.
The new tablets will also eventually pay for themselves, she said, as one less poll worker will be needed at each precinct. Poll workers earn $125 for their Election Day services, Smitherman said.
“This is going to be great for the county. Other counties in the state have already moved to the new technology, and they’re loving it,” she said.