BY: Citizens Count
SB 113 would give the OK to towns and cities wishing to try out electronic poll book devices, opening the door for a change that supporters say could significantly reduce wait times on election days.
Potential electronic poll book programs would have to receive approval from the secretary of state’s office before a trial could be held.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bette Lasky, recently received an “ought to pass” recommendation from the Senate Election Law Committee, and will be up for a vote when the Senate goes into session on March 9th.
“New Hampshire prides itself on its tradition of strong citizen participation in elections. But we also know that high voter turnout can create long lines at the polls. We must do everything we can to ensure that voting is accessible and efficient for everyone,” said Sen. Lasky. “This pilot program gives communities the opportunity to test electronic poll books in upcoming elections in the hope that this resource will help election workers process voters more quickly to ensure that busy Granite Staters have every opportunity to participate.”
On March 14th, the town of Bedford will become the first in New Hampshire to pilot an electronic poll book technology: KNOWNiNK, an iPad-based system. The town received permission from the secretary of state’s office to try the product alongside traditional paper-based check-in methods.
A previous attempt to implement a trial electronic poll book program, limited to Manchester, Hookset and Durham, HB 1534 (2016), passed both the House and Senate despite opposition from Secretary of State William Gardner, who expressed concerns about the lack of time to test the technology before election day. However, the bill was killed due to a procedural technicality.
Bedford’s trial this March comes after Gardner’s office formed a committee to evaluate the electronic poll book option.
This year’s legislative proposal comes on the heels of controversy over right-to-know requests issued by Gardner’s office for records related to conversations about electronic poll book technology by town clerks in Manchester and Laconia—both critics of Gardner’s position on the issue. The move followed a right-to-know request filed against Gardner’s office by America Votes, a progressive nonprofit critical of New Hampshire’s approach to modernizing the voting process. Read more about the issue here.
Opponents of the bill express concerns about the reliability of electronic poll books or their vulnerability to fraud and hacking.