Scott Leiendecker hates waiting in long lines. Don’t we all?
But Leiendecker, a former City of St. Louis elections director, says there is a difference between waiting in a slow-to-no moving line at a theatre or grocery store, and waiting in line to cast your ballot at your polling place. “When people have to wait in a long line at a polling place, that’s a deterrent to voting. It could mean the difference between voting and not voting – just giving up and going home — and that’s not good for the democratic process.”
So Leiendecker is doing something about it. Welcome to his company, KNOW iNK, and his product, an electronic poll book called the Poll Pad. He told the Poll Pad story on KMOX Radio in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 2, as part of the Innovation Tuesdays segment facilitated by InnoVox STL.
If you’ve cast a ballot at a local polling spot recently you feel Leiendecker’s pain first hand. You stand in line to get to the registration table. Once there, you line up in the alphabet-appropriate line. Good luck if your name is Smith and there are 25 “S’s” in front of you, while there’s nobody standing in the “Z” line.
Once you reach the coveted first spot in line, you show your identification to a poll worker who must flip through a hard bound, bulky book, find your name, turn the book around to ask you to verify, then have you sign it, before you are allowed to proceed.
Leindecker’s Poll Pad changes the game. No more alphabet specific lines. You reach the registration table, where a poll worker scans the bar code from your ID into an iPad, and matches your name to the one already loaded into the computerized system. The worker turns the iPad around, you click a button to verify, and off you go to vote.
Leiendecker estimates the process shaves 30 seconds to a minute off each voter sign-in “transaction.” Multiply that times hundreds or thousands of voters at each polling station, and you begin to see how those seconds can add up, and reduce long lines of voters.
But it’s about more than time saving. Leiendecker says the new process will save election officials big money – by reducing the costs of hiring temporary workers and paying overtime to facilitate the current cumbersome process.
Poll workers in 15 southeast Missouri counties used the iPad app to check voters in during a special election earlier this month in the state’s 8th Congressional district. The Poll Pad system is in place in 30 Missouri counties right now, and in portions of Kansas and Texas as well, with Florida, Virginia, Arkansas, and Indiana among other states using the system.
Leiendecker says we’ve reached the time when better technology can help improve processes in the US voting system. “If McDonalds and Costco can do it,” he says, “so can the voting system.”