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Technology to speed up voting in Stafford
BY KATIE THISDELL
Voters could move through Election Day lines faster than ever in Stafford County this year, thanks to new technology and scanners for ID cards.
Poll workers are wrapping up months of training this week by running mock precincts—a last-chance test for setting up, using new equipment and tallying votes for the Nov. 6 presidential election.
“This is so much easier than it used to be,” said Doris McAdams, a veteran chief election official at the Anne E. Moncure Elementary School polling place.
She and four of her poll workers ran their test Monday afternoon in the registrar’s new storage annex.
The biggest change is behind the scenes. On Election Day this fall, a new computer program will help election officials complete the tally at the polls at the end of the 13-hour voting day.
Usually, it would take at least one hour, if not several, to complete a handwritten 20-page report for the State Board of Elections.
Poll workers, who start the day before 5 a.m., are still at work hours after the last voters go through the line at 7 p.m.
Cameron Sasnett, an assistant registrar who works with training and technology, said too many election officials last year looked disgusted and defeated at the end of the day.
Over the past year, Sasnett developed a program called “results-logic” that can make that end-of-the-night paperwork go by much faster.
“You’re going to see night and day difference in speed and accuracy,” said Sasnett, who also expanded the county’s training for those who work the polls.
The program, OK’d by the State Board of Elections, keeps track of how many voters cast ballots, voided and spoiled ballots, provisional ballots and accounts for all other actions, such as write-ins.
One poll worker will read the numbers off the printouts from the ballot box, and another will enter those into the computer.
As for the results of the election that everyone wants to see, election officials can simply fax in results or use a smartphone to photograph the printout and email it to the registrar.
“Stafford County is really, really good at getting our results in really, really quickly and really, really accurately,” General Registrar Greg Riddlemoser said.
Though the approximately 82,200 registered voters won’t see how the computer program works, they could see the electronic scanners that will speed up voter check-in.
No more waiting in lines based on last names and waiting for election officials to flip through massive printed poll books.
Scanners can read barcodes on the new Virginia driver’s license and on voter registration cards, finding a person’s voter record in the electronic poll book in seconds.
Stafford is the only locality using these scanners, Riddlemoser told a group of elected county officials and party representatives during an open house Monday.
To get ready for the presidential and Senate elections that draw “cicada” voters who only come out occasionally, Riddlemoser said his office has been pushing absentee voting. His staff has put up signs about the absentee process in crowded commuter lots in Stafford.
All voters should have already received new voter cards in the mail over the past few weeks.
Polling places will be set up for maximum efficiency, said Riddlemoser, with lines inside buildings and signs telling voters what they need to have ready.
Voters will use paper ballots, unless they are visually disabled or otherwise handicapped, Riddlemoser said.
An optical scanner reads the markings on the ballots, just like the Scantron tests at schools.
On Election Day, 83 precinct chiefs and assistant chiefs, and 225 new election officials, will run the county’s 27 polling places.
Since August 2008, there are 11,000 more voters in Stafford.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975