New voter check-in system could speed up balloting


Oct. 20, 2010 at 5:20 a.m.

Victoria businessman Lewis Neitsch said he didn't notice much difference in procedure when he voted early this week for the Nov. 2 General Election.

"It went right through," he said. "It didn't take any longer, and it wasn't any faster."

And voting officials are hoping the new voter check-in system being used this election will be just as seamless for the other voters. But voters just might notice an improvement when things get busy on Nov. 2.

"I think that it helps to speed the process," said Michelle M. Shafer with the VOTEC Corp., which sold the system to Victoria County. "So, definitely, they should notice a speedier process coming into the polls."

George Matthews, county elections administrator, said the new system is being used in early voting, and it will be rolled out in all 35 voting precincts countywide for the first time Nov. 2.

Shafer said 36 other counties representing about half of the state's registered voters are already using one of VOTEC's systems. That represents about 11 million registered voters.

Matthews said in the past, the voting judges had a list of voters registered only in that precinct. That meant judges had to look up voter names in paper books that ranged from 300 to 600 pages thick to verify a person was registered.

Once the judges determined voters were listed on the registration list, they then had to fill out the name of the voter by hand and enter the voters' unique identifying numbers by hand. The voters also had to sign a request to vote.

"The new system is electronic," Matthews said. "So, when a voter comes in, we can now search for their names several different ways."

The new system has a bar code reader that has the ability to scan the bar codes on voter registration cards. It also has magnetic card strip readers that can be used to scan the magnetic strips on the back of driver's licenses.

"That limits very quickly which voter it is out of our 50,000 voters," Matthews said. "That makes it much easier to find the person."

In the past, voting judges had only a list of voters registered for their particular precincts. If someone showed up at the wrong precinct, the judge had to call the elections office and find out where the person should vote and send the person to a different precinct.

The new system keeps track of that information for the whole county at each precinct.

"So, if they come in the courthouse and they should be voting, say at F.W. Gross, we can give them the name of the place where they're supposed to be voting and the address," Matthews said. "The judge doesn't have to call us."



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