The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 7, 2012

Jo Ellis: Technology expected to simplify Jasper County poll workers’ job

By Jo Ellis
Globe Columnist

CARTHAGE, Mo. — It’s seldom that a gift to an individual has such wide-ranging consequences. This past Christmas, George Earl gave his wife, Bonnie, an iPad.

Bonnie said that after “playing” with it a bit, she soon realized its capabilities, and what a great tool it would be in her job. As Jasper County clerk and chief elections officer, she is responsible for conducting elections and keeping an accurate record of the county’s voter registration rolls.

She discovered a company, KNOW iNK, founded by former St. Louis election officials, that had developed the Poll Pad, essentially an iPad with a built-in software program that simplifies and streamlines the voter confirmation and voting procedure.

She ordered 95 Poll Pads for the August primary election. Trusting the devices to work as promised, she decided that the county didn’t even need backup rosters.

“A day or two before the election, I started worrying ... and wondering, ‘What have I done?’” she said.

The worrying was not warranted. “It went wonderfully well. I didn’t hear one complaint,” Bonnie said. “It’s just remarkable.”

As a poll worker for the past four years, I can verify how much easier and quicker the Poll Pad is to use than the heavy old voter registration books that had to be flipped back and forth and thumbed through until you found the right line on the right page for the voter to sign.

Bonnie is expecting a large voter turnout for the Nov. 6 presidential election, possibly even higher than in 2008. She is considering ordering a few more Poll Pads so voters won’t be inconvenienced by long lines.

She said that if a question arises on a voter’s qualifications, a poll worker will take the voter out of the line and try to resolve the issue by calling the elections office in the Carthage courthouse.

In addition to the state and national races on the front of the ballot, there is one Jasper County race. Republican Randee Kaiser will oppose Libertarian John Karriman for the office of sheriff.

The back of the ballot has propositions A, B and E and a state constitutional amendment.

As these state questions are somewhat lengthy, Bonnie said, “It would be to (voters’) advantage to read these beforehand and note how they want to vote on them.” In other words, do your homework before going to the polls.

Acceptable forms of identification besides your voter identification card, Bonnie said, will be a utility bill, a military identification card or an identification card from a state college or university.

People may register through this Wednesday to vote in the November election. Absentee ballots may be cast through Nov. 5, the day before the election. According to the elections office, more than 1,000 absentee ballots have been mailed already.

You will probably see more workers at the polls than usual. There will be greeters, plus poll watchers. Two bipartisan teams consisting of two members each (one from each party) will act as troubleshooters and randomly patrol each side of the county, so they can quickly react to any problem that arises.

Nice gift, George. We poll workers appreciate it.

Address correspondence to Jo Ellis, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email news@joplinglobe.com.