ST. PETE BEACH – Three voting precincts in St. Pete Beach will be testing sites March 11 for a new electronic poll book that the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections is implementing.
Julie Marcus, deputy supervisor of elections, told city commissioners Feb. 25 one of the primary purposes of the new electronic voter identification system is to cut down on the number of phone calls poll workers have to make to the elections supervisor’s office on Election Day to confirm whether a person who previously received a ballot by mail has voted.
“Sometimes people receive mail ballots and choose to vote at the polls on Election Day,” Marcus said. “What’s happened in the past is that voters didn’t bring those (mail) ballots with them. By law we’re required to call the office to make sure voters have not voted previously in the election and then block the (mail) ballot so they can’t later go drop (the mail ballot) in a mail ballot box and vote twice.”
She said because the new EVID system ties in to the county’s voter registration database, it provides real-time voter history.
“So if someone goes into the polls on Election Day at 7 a.m. and votes, this will update our system and tell us that person has voted,” she said. “So it would automatically block a second ballot.”
Marcus said during the 2012 general election, the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office received over 18,000 calls to determine if voters had returned their ballot or not.
“That accounted for 80 percent of the calls that came into our office on Election Day,” she said. “This will eliminate that because if you have your ballot or not we can process you at the polls and won’t have to call the office.”
Under the new EVID system, voters will need to present some form of identification with a photo and a signature to poll workers. In most cases, it will be either a valid Florida driver’s license or a state of Florida identification card. Other useable forms include a military ID or a passport.
“So if the information on the ID matches what we have on file, then we go to a signature pad,” said Marcus. “We then verify that signature against what is on the driver’s license. If it matches, the system prints out a ticket and you get a ballot.”
For those with no ID, Marcus said, poll workers would conduct a manual search through the system to see if the person is registered to vote. If they are, they will be given a ticket. They can also sign an affidavit stating they’re eligible to vote in Florida and receive a provisional ballot.
Under the old system, the Elections Supervisor’s Office received printed lists of eligible voters from a printer about a week before the election. Corrections and updates were done manually, requiring about 800 employee man-hours. With the new system, the expense will be spared.
“This is not new technology, just new for Pinellas County,” Marcus said. “This just completes the circle of our process. It’s a huge leap from going through a lot of manual processes.”
The system, which is designed by VR Systems of Tallahassee, is already in use in 45 Florida counties.
It will be used across all polling places in Pinellas County in the Aug. 26 primary election and the Nov. 4 general election.