County to upgrade voting systems

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 15, 2003

The 2004 primary election is likely to be a 21st century experience for Lawrence County voters.

And for those who have yet to register or who who need to update their voter information, that part is likely to be a technological breakthrough as well.

The Lawrence County Commission has awarded a contract to Election Systems & Software for a new voter registration system. The new computer system and software will link all county boards of elections in the state with each other and with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office in Columbus.

Email newsletter signup

Board of Elections Director Mary Wipert said the new system will allow a person who, for example, moved from Cincinnati to Lawrence County to walk into the Board of Elections office and literally move their voter registration information out of their previous place of residence and into the new one.

"The nice thing is the new system will automatically put the person in the right precinct," Wipert said. "It will have a street addressing system. This will take a lot of work off us."

The new system will also have more memory - a huge consideration, Wipert said, since the old system the local board now leases is out of date and not large enough to handle all that is now required of the board.

"The new system will be able to do all the reports we need," she said. "We will be able to generate acknowledgements and confirmation cards by computer. Right now, this is done by hand.

"I'll be glad for the new system when I'm running my poll books. Right now, the system we have doesn't have enough memory and it's always been kind of a panic when we do it. With the current system, we have to come in late at night when we're not running anything else and run poll books. Nothing else can be running on the computer."

Wipert said she hopes to have the new voter registration system up and running by early next year.

Also, the Lawrence County Board of Elections voted at its November meeting to use a new, computerized touch-screen voting system in the March primary. Representatives with ES&S have offered to be available during the election to install the new system, train workers and supervise the use of the new system to make sure everything runs smoothly. Wipert said breaking in the new voting system during the 2004 primary is a strategic move.

"We're probably looking at a smaller turnout than we would have in a general election and it should be easier for poll workers to handle," Wipert said. "Twelve thousand people voted in the last primary election we had; 16,000 voted in the general election (earlier this month). We hope to have demonstrations to show people how to use it and what it looks like."

The money for both new systems is coming from the federal Help America Vote Act, and Wipert said both systems will interface with each other.