Electronic Poll Books | e-Poll Books

10/25/2019

Introduction

As states explore new technologies to facilitate the voting process, the use of electronic poll books (e-poll books) is becoming increasingly prevalent. Traditionally, voting jurisdictions have had paper poll books that contain a list of eligible voters in the district or precinct. E-poll books, which typically come in the form of a laptop or tablet, have the ability to do much more than look up eligible voters. See the section below on What Can E-Poll Books Do?

E-Poll Books in the States

According to the 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey, 36 states used e-poll books in at least one jurisdiction in the 2018 elections. In total, 26.2% of jurisdictions nationwide reported using e-poll books, representing a 48% increase in e-poll book usage since the 2016 election.

State legislatures have responded to the increase in jurisdictions using e-poll books in a number of ways. Some states have instituted a certification process for e-poll books similar to the process for certifying voting equipment (see NCSL webpage on Voting System Standards, Testing and Certification). Others have instituted statewide policies through administrative rule or by directive from the secretary of state’s office. Some states have authorized e-poll books and provided some procedural guidance for jurisdictions, and some have not addressed e-poll books in statute.

As of October 2019, e-poll books have been authorized or are being used without statutory authorization in at least 41 states plus D.C. In summary:

  • 13 states certify e-poll books:
    • Alabama, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
  • 12 states provide statewide procedures for e-poll books but do not have a formal certification program:
    • Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.
  • 15 states have statutes that authorize the use of e-poll books but do not fall into the categories above: 
    • Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
  • One state plus D.C. do not have statutory authorization for e-poll books, but they are being used by local jurisdictions:
    • District of Columbia and Kentucky
  • Eight states do not prohibit the use of e-poll books, but they are not currently being used:
    • Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
  • Maine does not permit e-poll books.

Additional details are found in Table 1 below.

What Can E-Poll Books Do?

There are a variety of e-poll books on the market, and many jurisdictions design their own. An e-poll book typically provides one or more of the following functions:

  • Allows voters to sign in electronically.
  • Allows poll workers to easily redirect voters in the wrong location to the correct polling place.
  • Scans a driver’s license to pull up a voter’s information, avoiding data entry errors.
  • Allows poll workers to look up voters from the entire county or state. This can reduce time spent checking in voters, one of the bottlenecks in the voting process.
  • Allows real-time updates of voter history.
  • Notifies poll workers if a voter already voted absentee or during the early voting period.
  • Produces turnout numbers and lists of who voted.
  • In states that have same-day registration, e-poll books may be used to register voters.
  • Uses a photo to verify a voter’s identity. This could be a method to prevent voter fraud, but it is not yet in place anywhere.
  • E-poll books in some states (Maryland and Indiana, for example) are networked and receive immediate updates on who has voted in other voting centers. Other states (Minnesota and Michigan, for example) specify that e-poll books may not be connected to the network.

Things to Consider

Jurisdictions that consider using e-poll books should also evaluate the following issues:

  • Costs for purchase and maintenance.
  • Safeguards against a cyber-attack altering information on the e-poll book or disrupting the transmission of information.
  • Physical security of e-poll book equipment and the data it contains.
  • Potential for a mass malfunction of e-poll books, whether by chance or deliberate attack, leading some jurisdictions to keep a paper poll book on hand.
  • Challenge of training poll workers on a new technology.

Recent Action

  • 2019:
    • New York enacted AB 2005 permitting a "computer generated registration list" to be used in lieu of paper poll books at polling places, and requiring the state board of elections to set minimum security standards and approve devices used for this purpose.
    • Texas enacted HB 4130 requiring the secretary of state to prescribe requirements and standards for certification of e-poll books.
    • New Jersey enacted AB 5159 authorizing e-poll books in place of the paper poll book. E-poll books must have the same functionality provided by paper records and must be certified by the secretary of state.
    • Nevada enacted SB 123, which required counties or cities to test e-poll books for functionality in accordance with regulations adopted by the secretary of state. E-poll books had previously been used, but without any formal guidance or regulation from the state.
    • Delaware purchased a new statewide voting system, which included e-poll books statewide.
    • South Dakota enacted HB 1027 requiring a paper backup for polling locations using e-poll books.
    • Indiana enacted SB 570 placing additional physical and cyber security safeguards on e-poll books. 
  • 2018:
    • Michigan enacted HB 4734 requiring cities and townships to use the electronic poll book software developed by the state bureau of elections on Election Day to process voters and generate election precinct reports.
    • Indiana enacted SB 327 which allows counties to apply for reimbursement from the state for expenditures made to secure and monitor facilities where e-poll books are stored.
    • Iowa enacted HF 516 to establish a revolving loan fund to help jurisdictions purchase e-poll books and other polling place technologies.
    • Nebraska LB 1065 updated requirements for e-poll books (which had been authorized previously) to contain a list of registered voters and the sign-in register combined in one database, and to include digital signatures for the registered voters of the precinct.
    • Rhode Island rolled out e-poll books statewide after a successful pilot program in 2016. The state purchased e-poll books for all of its jurisdictions.
  • 2017:
    • New Hampshire enacted SB 113 establishing a pilot program for e-poll books.
    • Minnesota created a Voting Equipment Grant Account as part of the State Government Omnibus Finance Bill (Article 3, Section 17) and allocated $7 million to the grant (Article 1, Section 6, Subd. 5). A political subdivision is eligible to receive up to 75% of the cost of e-poll book equipment and up to 50% the cost of voting equipment.

Table 1: Summary Statutory Language for E-Poll Books

State

Category

Details

Alabama

Ala. Code

§ 17-4-2.1

Certifies e-poll books

Permits the use of e-poll books and requires them to be certified by the secretary of state.

Alaska

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §16-571, §16-444

Authorizes e-poll books

Defines e-poll books, authorizes their use and gives county election supervisors discretion to use them or not. Guidance for their use is also in the secretary of state’s Elections Procedures Manual, which has the effect of law pursuant to Arizona statute.

Arkansas

Ark. Stat. Ann. §7-1-101(12)

§7-5-107

Authorizes e-poll books

Defines e-poll books, permits their use and indicates the functions that they may include.

California

Cal. Elec. Code § 2550

Certifies e-poll books

Requires the secretary of state to adopt and publish e-poll book standards. An e-poll book may not be used in the state unless it is certified by the secretary of state.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. §1-2-301, §1-5-302

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

The centralized statewide registration system is managed by the secretary of state and is used in voter service and polling centers to look up voters. 

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-261c

Certifies e-poll books

Permits the electronic check-in of voters and stipulates that a device used for electronic check-in must be approved by the secretary of state.

Delaware

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

Delaware purchased e-poll books statewide along with a new voting system in 2019.

District of Columbia

E-poll books used without statutory authorization

E-poll books are used district-wide, with no specific authorizing legislation.

Florida

Fla. Stat. §98.461

Authorizes e-poll books

Specifies that an “electronic database” may be used as a precinct register at a polling place that may include an electronic device for a signature.

Georgia

Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 183-1-12-.07

Statewide procedures for E-poll books

E-poll books are used statewide, supported by the secretary of state and procedures for their use appear in administrative rule.

Hawaii

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Idaho

I.C. § 34-1106A

Certifies e-poll books

Authorizes the use of e-poll books certified by the secretary of state, and requires the secretary of state to develop and provide counties instruction and advisories regarding the examination, testing and use of E-poll books.

Illinois

10 ILCS 5/4-50, 10 ILCS 5/5-50, 10 ILCS 5/6-100

Authorizes e-poll books

Refers to e-poll books in the sections that authorize same day and Election Day registration (known as grace period registration). Smaller counties that do not have e-poll books may opt out of registering voters at the polling place if certain other conditions exist.

Indiana

Ind. Code §3-11-18.1-12, §3-11-15-46, §3‐11‐8‐10.3, §3-11-16-4

Certifies e-poll books

Permits the use of e-poll books, requires certification by the secretary of state, indicates functions and security measures they must include. The state partners with Ball State University to test all voting equipment, including e-poll books

Iowa

Iowa Code §49.77(1)(c), §47.11

Authorizes e-poll books

Permits the use of an electronic election register at the discretion of the commissioner. The state has an electronic poll book and polling place technology revolving loan fund (put in place in 2017) to help counties purchase or update e-poll books and other polling place technology.

Kansas

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

E-poll books are reviewed (but not certified) by the secretary of state.

Kentucky

E-poll books used without statutory authorization

E-poll books are used in some jurisdictions but are not explicitly authorized by statute or reviewed by the state.

Louisiana

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Maine

21-A M.R.S.A. § 1(21)

Not permitted

E-poll books are not permitted. A voter list is defined as the printed list of all voters in a municipality.

Maryland

COMAR 33.17.04.02, 33.17.04.03

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

E-poll books are use statewide and tested by the State Board of Elections (SBE). The SBE also provides instructions for their use. Administrative code specifies the number of e-poll books per vote center and requires voting centers to have a broadband network connection for e-poll books.

Massachusetts

M.G.L.A.

54 § 67

54 § 33I

Certifies e-poll books

Authorizes e-poll books and requires the secretary of state to examine e-poll books and determine whether they comply with minimum requirements. E-poll books that are used on Election Day to replace paper poll books must be certified by the secretary of state. No e-poll book has been certified for this purpose as of July 2019; proposed regulations can be found here. However e-poll books can be and are used for early voting.

Michigan

M.C.L.A. 168.668b

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

Election jurisdictions are required to use the e-poll book software developed by the secretary of state on Election Day to process voters and generate election precinct reports. The secretary of state also provides detailed information and procedures on using e-poll books.

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann.

§ 201.225

§ 206.805

§ 206.95

Authorizes e-poll books

Permits any jurisdiction to use e-poll books and sets specific functional requirements for e-poll books. The secretary of state must also establish state voting system contracts and a voting equipment grant account, which may include e-poll books, that permit counties or municipalities to purchase or lease equipment.

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. §23-15-125

Authorizes e-poll books

States that nothing “shall preclude the use of electronic poll books”.

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. §115.230

Authorizes e-poll books

Permits election authorities to use an electronic voter identification system or an electronic signature pad.

Montana

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. §32-301, §32-301.01

Authorizes e-poll books

Authorizes e-poll books and specifies functional requirements.

Nevada

N.R.S. 293.275

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

If a city or county uses an e-poll book (electronic roster) it must complete a test to ensure its functionality in accordance with regulations adopted by the secretary of state.

New Hampshire

NH Rev. Stat. §652.27

Certifies e-poll books

Currently a pilot program for e-poll books is authorized. E-poll books must be evaluated and approved using requirements established by the secretary of state.

New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 19:31-35 et seq.

Certifies e-poll books

E-poll books certified by the secretary of state are authorized. Capabilities and standards are set in statute. The secretary of state provides rules, regulations and instructions regarding the examination, testing and use of e-poll books, including rules regarding the security and protection of the information stored in e-poll books.

New Mexico

N.M. State Ann. § 1-3-4

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

Consolidated precinct polling locations (vote centers) must have an Internet connection and real-time access to the statewide voter registration system.

New York

New York Election Law § 1–104 (38)

Certifies e-poll books

Permits a “computer generated registration list” to be used in place of registration poll records in polling places. The state board of elections shall promulgate minimum security standards for any electronic device and any network or system to which the device is connected, and shall also promulgate a list of approved devices.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163A-1137(c)(8)

Authorizes e-poll books

E-poll books are permitted in lieu of or in addition to paper poll books. All jurisdictions use e-poll books for early voting and many use them for election day as well.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code §16.1-06-21, §16.1-07-15

Authorizes e-poll books

Requires the county auditor to deliver one paper or electronic poll book to each polling place and has provisions for securing any electronically maintained poll books.

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §3506.021, § 3506.05

Certifies e-poll books

Defines e-poll book and permits the use of e-poll books certified by the secretary of state. The secretary of state appoints a board of voting machine examiners to examine and approve equipment, including e-poll books.

Oklahoma

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Oregon

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Pennsylvania

Pa. Cons. Stat. Title 25 §1402

Certifies e-poll books

The secretary of state is responsible for certifying e-poll books based on the statutory requirement that “the computer list shall be in a form prescribed by the Secretary.”

Rhode Island

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

E-poll books were purchased by the state in 2018 and are used statewide.

South Carolina

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

The state election commission provides procedures, training, and support for e-poll books.

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §12-14-17(3), § 12-16-28, S.D. Admin. Rules 5:02:17:14

Authorizes e-poll books

Specifies that secure, encrypted e-poll books must be used if a jurisdiction chooses a vote center model. Paper poll book backups must also be provided. E-poll book security is also addressed in administrative rules.

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. §2-7-112

Authorizes e-poll books

Authorizes electronic poll books or a computerized voter list approved for use by the coordinator of elections. 

Texas

Tex. Election Code Ann. §31.014

Certifies e-poll books

Requires the secretary of state to prescribe requirements and standards for certifying e-poll books. Statute has specific functional requirements.

Utah

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

There is a preferred statewide e-poll book vendor and jurisdictions may choose to use a statewide contract.

                   

Vermont

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used.

Virginia

Va. Code §24.2-611, § 24.2-668, §24.2-404(A)(7)

Certifies e-poll books

Provides procedures for the use of e-poll books and specifies that localities may purchase e-poll books that have been approved by the State Board of Elections.

Washington

None

E-poll books are not prohibited but are not currently being used. The state provides mail ballots to all voters and does have service centers where voters can obtain replacement ballots, which are connected to the statewide voter registration database.

West Virginia

W. Va. Code, §3-4A-2, W. Va. Code, §3-4A-19

Authorizes e-poll books

Defines e-poll books and provides procedures for their use in polling places.

Wisconsin

Wis. Stat. Ann. §6.79

Statewide procedures for e-poll books

Statute authorizes e-poll books if they are approved by the election commission. The Wisconsin Elections Commission developed an e-poll book system with integration to its statewide voter registration system.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. § 22-1-102

Authorizes e-poll books

Defines e-poll books and authorizes their use at vote centers at the discretion of the county clerk.

 

 

Additional Resources

 

More Information

To learn more about e-poll books and elections technology, contact NCSL's elections staff at 303-364-7700.