‘Sign’ Of Change

The village of “firsts” will get another first Monday as the Chautauqua County Board of Elections will provide the very first state-approved electronic poll book pilot as part of the Fredonia village elections.

Voters in Chautauqua County sign in to vote using a pen and paper poll book that contains a digitized sample of the signatures of registered voters eligible to vote in an election.

Recently, the state Board of Elections gave permission to Chautauqua County to test out two vendors who offer electronic poll books. Monday, Election Administrators, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., will demonstrate its product as part of the Fredonia election. The board of elections will test a second vendor at the Westfield village election on March 19.

“Voters will sign in to vote just as they always have,” said Brian C. Abram, election commissioner. “Only on Monday they will be signing their name on an electronic signature pad similar to what is used at stores.”

“This is something that is already in use in other jurisdictions around the country,” added commissioner Norman P. Green. “But it’s a new idea for New York state.”

The commissioners explained that the advantages of the electronic signature pad is an elimination of paper printing and an elimination of personnel time needed to produce paper poll books. Another advantage would be a drastic reduction in the time needed to update voter history, and to process name or address changes after an election.

“This technology is also a component that is needed if we are ever going to offer early voting in New York state,” Green said. “We would be required to allow early voting from any where in the county, from remote sites. We might set up in Jamestown, Dunkirk-Fredonia or elsewhere for voting before Election Day. Let me make it clear though, we don’t expect early voting to be approved in our state any time soon; but we do have to be ready and we do have to plan.”

Monday voting for Fredonia voters will take place at the Wheelock School, 75 Chestnut St., from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. To speed up voting, the new electronic poll book allows for a scan of a voter’s driver license for automatic record lookup and voters are encouraged to use their license or voter mail check card to speed up the voting process. Election inspectors will also be able to keypunch a voter’s name for access to the voter sign in record. After signing in, the voter will be given a paper ballot to vote for any two village trustee candidates, a village justice and a proposition allowing Fredonia to move it election to November.

Election results for Fredonia voters will be available after the close of polls on Monday at www.votechautauqua.com.

More than 30 election professionals from other Western New York counties will be on hand Monday to witness the state Board of Elections-sanctioned pilot of electronic poll book sign in for voters.