Before the 2010 election, I wrote a piece for BizVoice® about online voting registration in Indiana. It featured Quest Information Systems’ FirstTuesday technology and the company’s work in helping the state streamline the process. As some counties now move to voting centers, which allow voters flexibility to cast ballots in different locations, West Lafayette-based DelMar Information Technologies has created web-based Electronic Poll Book software to track voter activity on Election Day.
In 2011, the Indiana Legislature passed a law allowing all 92 counties to install voting centers, should they choose to. Before that, Tippecanoe County was allowed to launch a pilot program in 2006. The county then approached DelMar, which operates out of the Purdue University Research Park, to develop technology to help track voters in the 2007 election.
“If you’re going to allow people to vote anywhere, you have to be able to validate in real time that they didn’t show up at the church on 1st Street, then hop over to the community center on 3rd Street and try to vote,” explains Mikel Berger, Delmar IT software developer. “Back in 2006, there were no electronic poll books that were all interconnected and did real time verification or validation of a voter’s ability to vote. So they came to us and asked us to build it. We said, ‘Sure, but we would like to own it and license it to you.’ That way we could sell it to other counties, as other counties adopt the vote center concept.”
DelMar’s technology is now used in Cass County, and it is marketing its software to other counties in Indiana and beyond.
“(DelMar’s product) was the only one used in the pilot,” relays Doran Moreland, founder of Indianapolis-based public affairs consulting firm Exponent Strategies and partner on this project. “So you have a product made specifically for Indiana elections and to this point today, we’re the only local team that’s still doing this. We hope it’s exciting for election officials that there’s a local business that’s getting into this. We want to do this in the best interest of the state.”
DelMar’s Electronic Poll Book doesn’t require extra hardware, which can drive up the costs for municipal end users. Berger contends counties will incur some costs for the poll book, but save more money by needing less voting machines, and having fewer poll workers to hire and feed.
“Getting adequate staffing in place for precinct-based elections is a very difficult process,” Moreland asserts. “Election officials have to find a large amount of people and train them for something you only do twice a year. You can imagine there are a lot of inefficiencies. The poll book takes out a lot of the guesswork that happens, so election officials can focus on selecting the best people and not just getting warm bodies to the table.”
Berger adds that voting convenience is significantly enhanced.
“Some people that are skeptical of (voting centers) ask, ‘You mean there will be fewer polling places?,’” he shares. “And the answer is, ‘Yes, but for the individual voter, you only ever had one polling place. Now you have 20, 40, depending on the size of your county.’ You have options, and our society is a lot more mobile than it was over 100 years ago – the last time our election laws were changed. You spend part of your day in this part of town, and part in that part of town.”
Berger says Indiana is the first state to allow all of its counties to pursue voting centers, and that Indiana is the only state allowing them to be implemented on Election Day (some states are using them just for early absentee voting).
“Once we get past the November elections, we think counties all over the country will be taking a close look at vote centers because of the cost savings,” Moreland contends. “Society’s becoming more technologically focused and there’s no reason the way we vote shouldn’t change as well.”