02/28/05 — County begins putting voter registrations on computer

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County begins putting voter registrations on computer

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on February 28, 2005 1:52 PM

Voter registration information will soon be computerized in Wayne County, thanks to a technology grant from the federal government.

Gary Sims, Wayne County's elections director, said his office was starting to scan information from voter registration records into the computer.

It's a project made possible due to the Help America Vote Act, and will be completed this spring.

The 2002 Vote Act was passed to give states money to replace punch card voting systems, to establish a commission to help with federal elections and to establish election standards for states.

Sims said that he believes the computerized record keeping will improve accountability and reduce errors in the registration process.

"It will also double our input rate, but using data entry will let us concentrate more on accuracy than speed," he said.

Though the elections office encourages people to come in whenever their voter information changes, Sims said that most people wait until the last minute to update their information.

"Last fall, the week before voter registration closed, this office was overrun by updates," Sims said.

He hopes that people will avoid the last-minute registration crunch, but says the new computerized system will help staff handle the rush a little more easily.

The elections office is already focusing on 2006 elections, and Sims says he is anticipating some changes in the processes.

Changes, he said, would be a result of potential new legislation stemming from concerns about last fall's state elections.

"This doesn't mean the voters will see changes because most will be procedural changes regarding accountability," he said.

There is one piece of legislation that could take place next year which has Sims a little nervous.

"This would require us to report absentee results by precinct, and I'm hoping that we'll get grandfathered in," he said.

Without an exclusion, Wayne County would go from 25 different ballot styles in a presidential election to around 75 styles.

"And in a primary, we could have around 210 different ballots," he said. "If that law passes, it could triple our ballot cost, plus add a new level of management for precinct officials and staff."