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Onondaga County introducing electronic polling books in three locations

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny holds a printed polling book.

Onondaga County is experimenting this Election Day with electronic poll books. Information gleaned from this experience could change the way New Yorkers sign in to vote in this state.

Right now, when voters go to the polls in New York state, an election worker flips through a big book. A voter then signs in next to their name, before casting their ballot.

Electronic poll books would change that first step, with voters' names stored in a laptop-like device, using a signature pad to sign in.

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny says this change in technology has several advantages.

“We hope that it’ll be more efficient, both on the voter end, and our data collection end at the end of the election," Czarny said. "Greener of course, because we won’t be printing poll books three or four times a year, and also it’s going to be better access for the voters.”

Czarny says something like this, ultimately, will be cheaper, too.

“If we ever go to a county-wide electronic poll book, you would see an initial cost investment for any individual county doing this, but long-term savings," Czarny said.

If voters go to the wrong polling place, Czarny says electronic poll books make it easier to direct voters to the proper polling location. Voters at Nottingham High School, Jamesville-DeWitt High School and Lafayette Fire Station #1 election districts will use the new technology this year, presenting an array of urban, suburban and rural polling places.

Czarny says results of the test will be turned over to the state, which would have to come up with new rules and guidelines before it could become the norm.

“I would say we’re looking at a window of three to five years before this is widespread," Czarny explained. "But much like our electronic voting machines, our digital scans and other things, there was pilots done on those before we moved to those.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.