Journal Times editorial: Badger Books should improve speed, accuracy at polling places
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Journal Times editorial: Badger Books should improve speed, accuracy at polling places

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Good-bye A-L and M-Z.

We won’t miss you.

When voters go to the polls on Feb. 18 at several voting sites in Racine and Caledonia that may be the most noticeable change they see as the municipalities debut the new electronic poll books — called Badger Books — to check in voters, count absentee ballots and register people to vote.

Voters will still get their voter tickets once they register and be issued a ballot to mark up in the privacy booth and then run it through the tabulation machines as they have in the past. That won’t change. And they will have to scrawl their signature on the electronic Badger Book instead of writing it in pen — a process much like that of most grocery stores, gas stations and other merchants when using a credit card.

But — especially come November when there will be a heavy turnout for the presidential election — voters will no longer have to queue up in two alphabetical lines based on their last name: A to L to the left and M-Z to the right.

Instead, they will former a single line and as soon as the first of several Badger Book registration stations is open they’ll go right to it. The electronic books are adept at finding the names of registered voters with a few keystrokes instead of having poll workers leaf through the registration binders. And if a voter is in the wrong polling place, Badger Book will tell them in an instant where they should be going to vote.

In past presidential elections it has not been unusual to see voter lines running out the door and down the block at some polling sites. And there have been times — attested to by grumbling voters waiting in November’s cold and chill — when one line has been jammed and the other has been empty.

“No sir, you can’t go into the A-L line unless your last name begins with one of those letters.”

If the Badger Books live up to their billing, they should end that bit of election day frustration and help speed the voting process overall.

Both Racine and Caledonia kicked the tires on the Badger Books last week with open house demonstrations and City Clerk Tara Coolidge and Caledonia Village Clerk Karie Pope reported the sessions went well.

They’ll get their first real test on Feb. 18 in the spring primary election, the first of four elections this year. Both Racine and Caledonia are having a staggered rollout of the electronic poll books over two years. Pope said she expects the cost will be about $60,000 once the Badger Books are fully implemented and the Racine cost is expected to be $160,000.

Pope said the system could produce “a lot of savings” ranging from reduced processing time to fewer poll worker expenses. But the biggest thing, she said, is it should produce more accuracy in registration and cut down on handwritten errors on registration forms — which can then carry over to the next election.

“Accuracy is way more important than speed,” Pope said.

We share that view and we’re hopeful the new electronic poll books reduce registration errors at the polls and speed up the voting process as well. Long lines at the polls can often discourage voters from waiting to cast their ballots. Badger Books might well reduce those delays and encourage voters to vote.

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