Watertown Upgrading Technology at Voting Sites for Next Election

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Charlie Breitrose

Watertown voters will see some new technology when they vote in 2022. The City Clerk’s Office will use computer tablets which officials hope will streamline the check-in at the polls, and speed up the counting process.

Last week, City Clerk Janet Murphy told the City Council about the poll pads that will be used in Watertown. They replace the large paper voter list books that have been used at precincts in Watertown. She was asked if the poll pad comes on an Apple iPad tablet.

“It is indeed an iPad that comes on a stand, and loaded on the iPad is the whole voter list, not just the precinct list,” Murphy said. “If (someone) shows up at the wrong precinct the voter is still on the list.”

The list includes voters’ name, address, political party, and information such as if they have requested an absentee or mail-in ballot.

“It will show whether we have already processed the ballot, whether they need to show us an ID, or if they are in the wrong location,” Murphy said. “It is virtually impossible to check in an incorrect voter.”

Murphy said it is not required to have a driver’s license to vote, but it makes it easier to check a person’s ID because poll workers can scan the license or state ID and it will bring up their address.

People may have to show an ID if they are voting in Massachusetts for the first time, or if they are an inactive voter — people who had been registered, but did not vote in recent elections or have not filled out the City Census.

The poll pads have been available since 2016, Murphy said, and have become very popular. They are used in many communities in the state.

Another benefit is fewer poll workers will be required for each precinct, Murphy said.

“I do not want to stress that we want less people, but it is harder and harder to find people,” Murphy said. “They tend to be older people, and as you know COVID has not been kind to any of us. We even have times on election day when someone calls in sick.” 

Councilor Tony Palomba asked whether it will be difficult for poll workers to be trained to use the poll pads. Murphy said it is not difficult.

“It takes minutes: press this, press this, press this, then the voter is voted,” Murphy said.

Councilor Lisa Feltner asked whether the Watertown voter list will be updated before it is put onto the poll pads.

“It will certainly be vetted before we load up. It shows every inactive voter, it shows on screen in different colors,” Murphy said. “We have been working very hard on the voter list. The voter list is in good shape, better than it’s been. And, I think especially with poll pads, when the entire voting list is present for the person checking, I think it will help us tremendously with bad addresses or not exact addresses.”

Sometimes the address on the voter roll is not the same as on their ID, Murphy said, such as 110A Main St. and 110 Rear Main Street.

Murphy added that the voter registration list has been updated when the state changed the district borders for the Massachusetts House and Senate districts.

“The state deleted thousands of bad addresses after redistricting process,” she said.

Councilor John Gannon asked if the poll pads would allow for same-day registration, if Massachusetts changes the rules to allow that. Murphy said she is not sure.

In the past, voters had to check into and check out of polls. This caused a delay in the tallying of voting if the there were differences in the books. After the polls closed, the poll workers had to reconcile the two books, and if they didn’t match up they had to go through by hand and find the mistake.

The poll pads will eliminate this process, Murphy said, because there is not going to be an out book. Council Vice President said he thinks this will be a positive step.

“This will allow the election results to be done a whole lot more quickly,” Piccirilli said. “This is great for the public who wants to know and have spent a long time waiting.”

The next election will be the Massachusetts State Primary on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. The voter registration deadline is Aug. 27, 2022, and mail-in ballots can be requested until Aug. 29, 2022. Early voting will take place from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2. See more information by clicking here.

13 thoughts on “Watertown Upgrading Technology at Voting Sites for Next Election

  1. Poll pad makes sense(though I’m assuming. they are from a very secure sight and over VPN?). Voting itself, I still like the simplicity of the card board paper and marker. (which I believe we still will have?)

    • I don’t know for certain but given that the article says the voter list will be loaded onto the iPad, it may be that when the iPads are at the polling places, they aren’t connected to the internet at all. Perhaps they only get connected to a Watertown network when they are at city hall. Also, these are only for poll workers to use for voter check-in, voting will stay as it’s been, on paper.

    • The ballots haven’t changed. The Poll Pads are just a digital version of the paper lists used to check in voters in the past. Same data in a much more environmentally friendly format!

  2. One needs a photo ID to buy alcohol and do many other things in society.

    No one questions it.

    Some states require a photo ID for voting.

    Massachusetts does not because, in my opinion, legislators of a particular dominant political party do not mind if there is voter fraud because they figure fraud mostly benefits that party, whose name I don’t wish to mention.

    And of course with mail-in voting one does not need any proof of anything.

    Your child away at college and can’t fill in his ballot? No problem.

    Do I believe that the signature on such a ballot is always checked by town clerks against the on-file signature of the “voter”?

    No, of course I don’t.

  3. Why is the city buying presumably 12 (brand name) iPads instead of Windows tablets which are much cheaper?

    • The vendors certified to provide these devices in Massachusetts only offer iPads. It’s not a software that can be loaded onto any mobile device at this point.

  4. If people are serious and knowledgeable voters, they should not need to have same-day voter registration. In the past people planned their lives and anticipated that they needed to meet the voting guidelines in order to keep order in the voting system. If people did this today, there may be less distrust in the system. There is little control with students who may have registered where they go to college and are still on the voting lists in their home locations if we have the same-day option. We shouldn’t need days after the elections to know the results if the mail-in ballots are not used. Let’s just stick with the absentee ballots for people who know they won’t be around on the actual voting day. There is a challenge to the mail-in ballots that will be heard today in the MA Supreme Court. I hope they will not be allowed as we need to have more accountability that the ballots are in the correct person’s hands and there is no chance that they can vote twice by intercepting another person’s ballot. Plus with the mail being so delayed these days, anything can happen when the ballots are sent out and returned. The old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, let’s not try to fix it’ should apply.

    • We have no Constitutional requirement to define “serious and knowledgeable voters”. There is no same day registration in Massachusetts. Main in voting exists in many states which no evidence of record of any type of voter fraud. The Court challenge is a partisan one. The system is definitely broken in many ways. These reforms seek to enhance it.

  5. Mail in voting is great. No fraud found. What would be good is to have the law allow the counting of mail ballots as they arrive at City Hall (or most of them counted at a time before election day). Then there would be no major delays after the polls close on election day.

    • We will always have some delays because of absentee and mail in votes that are postmarked by the deadline but not received, as well as provisional votes that require some additional research. I’d rather take the extra time to ensure that all legitimate votes are counted!

  6. I would like to just point out that there is little fraud today and this should be the starting point. https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-fraud-elections/fact-check-re-examining-how-and-why-voter-fraud-is-exceedingly-rare-in-the-u-s-ahead-of-the-2022-midterms-idUSL1N2XP2AI Here is one good source along with many of the states(republican based) who did many reviews and found very little fraud. The goal should be to enable every USCitizen to vote while ensuring little fraud. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water, as the mail in has been very helpful to many. We could also have that day as a national holiday. This would allow most folks to vote more easily at the polls as there are many who find it stressful and hard to get there. There will never be zero fraud in anything but minimizing it so that this is Inconsequential and folks trust the overall process is what is needed. Getting an id is actually hard for
    Many seniors( my mother case in point once her drivers license expired we had to coordinate a ride plus a person to help her in and out of the car, sit with her to help her up and get a photo, back the entire process was about 4.5hrs not including prepping to go out ) possibly we can create an id quickly and automatically for seniors or others with expired licenses given all the info is there or can be updated and sent in ? There are solutions but they should keep to the goal of having all us citizens well informed( hopefully reading multiple sources of news) vote without having to jump through many hoops. Ideas to streamline more accountability while not creating more hoops?

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