Hamblen Election Commission to debut time-saving equipment

Hamblen County Administrator of Elections Jeff Gardner demonstrates new voting equipment the election commission will use this year.

New technology will terminate two time-honored and time-consuming traditions in the May 1 Hamblen County primary election, according to Jeff Gardner, administrator of elections.

The first and most significant improvement on Election Day will be abandoning the hand-written ballot applications and identifying voters in the bulky signature books, a change that could trim the pre-voting ritual from about a minute to 20 seconds, according to Gardner.

The old procedure will be replaced by iPad poll pads, which read the identification information encoded on the bar code of the back driver’s licenses and firearms-carry permits. If a voter appears at the wrong voting precinct, the poll pad will recognize the error, and will give the voter written instructions to the correct polling station, according to Gardner.

“Everybody who has looked at them really likes them,” Gardner said. “This will be easy. It’s pretty simple.”

In the past, small precincts like Fish Hatchery had two signature books. Larger ones in West Hamblen County had five or six, according to Gardner.

Not only will the poll pads make voting quicker, in the not-so-long run, they’ll also save country government money. Gardner says the devices will eliminate about $4,750 in salary expense for poll workers each election cycle. This fiscal year, Hamblen County Commission funded the purchase of 38 poll pads for approximately $60,000.

Two poll pads will be at each polling station on Election Day. The machines will not be used during the early voting at the election commission office at the Hamblen County Courthouse. No more than 18 of the 95 Tennessee counties will be using the poll pads on May 1, according to Gardner.

The devices will also cut the amount of time it takes to certify the election results from one week to about two hours, according to the administrator of elections.

They other change on May 1 will be the way the preliminary results are distributed to people at the courthouse. In past year, partisans waited for paper copies after poll workers returned precinct totals to the election commission office.

This time, the results will be posted to a 54-inch smart television that will be mounted in the hallway outside the office.

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