Electronic or Paper Ballots? - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Electronic or Paper Ballots?

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ROCK ISLAND, IL. -- While voters choose the candidates and vote on referendum questions, they also have to choose a method of voting.

Electronic or paper?

John Brown, Chief Deputy at Rock Island County Clerk's Office says about 90 percent of voters still prefer paper.

Currently, all polling stations have a mix of both paper and electronic ballots. Paper is what many are comfortable with, filling in bubbles one-by-one with a pen. And electronic voting is swiping a card and making selections on a touch screen.

Brown says electronic polls started about a decade ago initially to make things easier for voters with disabilities. Over time, it's not only a faster way to vote, but also more cost efficient for taxpayers. "Every ballot that I order costs 26 cents and if I don't use them, basically they're burned or shredded. It's a much cheaper vote from a taxpayer's standpoint to do a touch screen vote then to do a paper ballot vote."

Many voters that spoke with KWQC today are sticking with what they know and trust.

Norval Morgan says, "I like paper just because it's permanent. In the long run, maybe touch screen would be a better thing." Today, he voted by paper.

Clara Caldwell, a 39-year resident of Rock Island County also says she would rather vote by paper. "I just know that people can get in and do things with electronic machines."

It seems to be a matter of trust with these folks, but Brown says Rock Island County takes precautions with electronic polls. "If we had a system of touch screen that didn't have a paper trail, I can understand questioning it, but the fact is there is a paper trail just as much as there is with a paper ballot."

With paper trail, the county can go back and reconstruct all computerized votes. This means in the case of a tie or re-count, it prints out and works just like a paper ballot.

Brown adds, "If you vote on a touch screen, at the end it will give you a recap showing everything you voted for and you can go back and change mistakes. When you hit enter and are ready to submit your vote, you can see it records everything you have done. It's part of the paper trail."

Some voters in Rock Island today say they would feel more comfortable with the touch screen if they got a receipt with it. However, like a paper vote, your receipt is simply your "I VOTED" sticker.

Irma Gripp, a Voter System Technician, says "It is very safe. In fact, we wouldn't have implemented it if there was any question whatsoever. Once people get into the habit of doing it, they will find that it is easier."

For today, it seems that paper is still the preferred choice for many voters, but electronic ballots may be the future in Rock Island County.

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