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BENTONVILLE -- Benton County election officials took a small step Tuesday toward changing the way residents vote.

Election officials used an electronic check-in system for the Rocky Branch Fire Protection Association special election. The election was needed to place the fire association's annual dues on residents' property tax statements.

At A Glance

Vote Centers

Arkansas law allows county clerks or election commissions to establish vote centers in the county on election day. A written plan must be approved by the Secretary of State’s Office and an ordinance establishing the vote centers must be approved by the Quorum Court.

Source: Arkansas Secretary Of State’s Office

The system allows election workers to check a person's voter registration status against computer records, rather than from the traditionally used printed poll books. The computerized system worked as hoped, said County Clerk Tena O'Brien. Polls books and the computer system were available Tuesday.

"It worked very well. At the end of the night the count was accurate," O'Brien said.

The county has used electronic poll books for early voting so Tuesday's success wasn't a surprise, O'Brien said.

Electronic poll books are a necessary part of the election system needed if the county chooses to open vote centers on election days as now allowed by state law, said Kim Dennison, election coordinator.

Vote centers could allow the county to reduce the number of polling places used on election days. Voters from any part of the county could vote in any of the vote centers.

"It would be just like early voting," Dennison said. "Anyone could show up at any of the vote centers because all of the ballots would be there. They wouldn't have to go to a specific polling location."

Electronic poll books have another advantage, Dennison said.

Printed poll books are prepared before the end of the early voting periods held before elections. With early voting continuing through the Monday before election day, paper poll books can't indicate that someone may have voted that day and be ineligible to vote on election day, she said.

"If we go to electronic check-in that would tell us if someone voted during early voting," she said.

John Brown Jr., chairman of the Election Commission, said the commission has discussed having vote centers and he favors the idea. The commission will put together more information on what would be needed to present to the county during this year's budget process that begins in August and ends in December, he said.

The electronic system will continue to be tested. It most likely will be used in one or both elections scheduled for September, Dennison said.

Brown was pleased with the way the system worked Tuesday, although the turnout was less than he would have liked.

"We could keep up with the number of people who had voted throughout the day," he said. "I wasn't happy there were only 72 people who voted. I wish there had been more so it would've given us a real test."

NW News on 07/11/2014

Print Headline: County Tests New Vote System

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