The upcoming primary election in Erie County on May 16th will see a soft rollout of a new technology called the Poll Pad. A select number of polling locations will see them in use, North East will NOT use them, and if everything works smoothly, they will be used in all locations for the general election in November.
The Poll Pad is intended to streamline the sign in procedure currently in place where the voter signs a poll book with all registered voters for that location. The Poll Pad will serve as an electronic signature pad. The record for that voter will be pulled up verifying that they are in the proper location for which they are registered and it will also check to be sure they have not already voted with a mail-in ballot. The Poll Pad is not connected to the internet, but is instead, uploaded with the appropriate information before being brought to that location and at the end of the day, it is taken back to the election office where the records of voters who voted are transferred to the computer system. The Poll Pad itself is an Apple iPad running software from KNOWiNK, the company that makes the device.
The Poll Pad is not connected in any way to the Dominion voting machines and the information is completely separate from that system.
In a discussion with Tonia Fernandez, Erie County Election Supervisor, she explained how the Poll Pad system can help eliminate errors that may occur when the current poll books are scanned in. The records of which voters voted and a count of how many voted would be more quickly available than with the manual methods currently used. The information from the Poll Pads is uploaded to a secure server account that only Erie County has access to, but the server itself is administered by KNOWiNK.
The Poll Pads have been tested and approved by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and it is already used by a number of PA counties.
Whether or not we need more technology introduced into the voting process is a question for debate, however, the Poll Pad may be less of an issue than the Dominion voting machines which have been extremely controversial. The Poll Pads may even serve as a check on the Dominion results by comparing the number of voters who signed in at a location with the number of ballots cast there.
In my conversation with Ms Fernandez I found her to be extremely knowledgeable and she left me with the impression that the Erie County election office is doing its best to conduct fair and honest elections in strict accordance with PA law as it stands.
For those of us concerned with the separate issues of mail-in ballots and who would rather have those ballots eliminated entirely while using only paper ballots at the polls with no Dominion machines involved, it’s important to remember these practices cannot be changed at the county level, but are instead things that must be dealt with by the PA legislature. If you have strong opinions on those issues, contacting Senator Laughlin and Representative Banta is your best route.