An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon to test the feasibility of replacing expensive paper poll books at voting sites with electronic “books” to save money in the long-term.
“The purpose of this voluntary project is to allow county commissioners of registration to test the feasibility of replacing the paper polling record used at a polling place on election day with an electronic version of that record,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “In the long run, our goal is to reduce costs and improve accessibility by not having to reprint these books every year.”
The measure (AJR-59) would permit each county commissioner of registration, in consultation with their respective board of elections, to conduct an “Electronic Poll Book Demonstration Project” in certain election districts during the 2016 election cycle, upon review and approval of each project’s plan by the Secretary of State.
The technology, known as an electronic poll book, provides access to the registration record, eligibility, signature, and other information of each registered voter in the election district, and enables the same functionality currently provided by the paper polling record to be accomplished by electronic means in the conduct of an election.
Under the joint resolution, each county commissioner of registration would work with the county board of elections in each county to develop a plan, which would be required to conform to the following specific criteria:
1) designation of the location and number of election districts at which the demonstration project will be conducted, which cannot constitute more than five percent of the total number of election districts in the county per election cycle;
2) specification of the electronic poll book technology to be used during the demonstration project, which must be acquired in sufficient quantities and be capable of performing by electronic means all of the same functions performed by a paper polling record;
3) provision of a full set of paper polling records at each election district participating in the demonstration project, which must be brought into use during the election if the electronic poll book technology fails;
4) production by the county commissioner of registration of an estimate of the full costs of developing and implementing the demonstration project, which must be submitted to the county governing body for approval at the planning stage, with the costs of the demonstration project required to be paid by the county out of county government funds;
5) detailed description of procedures and requirements for poll worker training, protections for electronic and physical security of the electronic poll books, and planning for any other potential contingencies; and
6) any other criteria deemed appropriate by the commissioner, board, county governing body, or Secretary of State.
A county commissioner of registration shall be empowered to cancel the implementation of an approved electronic poll book demonstration project if the commissioner determines that emergency or other circumstances warrant cancellation.
The joint resolution also requires the selected electronic poll book technology to meet at least the following capabilities and standards:
1) ability to enable a poll worker to perform by electronic means all of the same functions performed using a paper polling record during the conduct of an election;
2) compatibility with the statewide voter registration system;
3) proven ability to successfully meet requirements concerning technology documentation, user safety, accessibility, and other technological concerns; and
4) any other capability or standard deemed appropriate by the commissioner, board, or Secretary of State, or deemed necessary to comply with any provision of the election laws.
The county commissioner would be required to submit a complete electronic poll book demonstration project plan to the Secretary of State at least 90 days ahead of the election during which the demonstration project will be implemented. The secretary is required to review each plan for conformance with the provisions of this joint resolution within 30 days of receiving the plan, and is empowered to either approve, approve with changes, or disapprove the plan.
Each county commissioner of registration implementing an electronic poll book demonstration project would be required to develop and submit a report to the Governor and the Legislature documenting the results of the demonstration project within 120 days following the completion of the project.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee chaired by McKeon.