New electronic poll books speed up voting, data collection process

Wisconsin Elections Commission staff say this new system will cut down days worth of work to just hours for poll workers

MADISON, Wis. — New electronic poll books called Badger Books are gaining popularity all across Wisconsin for the upcoming election.

Badger Books check in voters, register voters and process absentee ballots. When voters check in, they will give their names and addresses to the poll workers as usual. The difference now, is that poll workers will look up names electronically rather than through paper poll books. Voters no longer have to stand in line based on last name. They can now go to any line to check in.

“Some of them are reporting 10-15 seconds to check in a voter and about a minute and a half to register a voter,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission staff member Cody Davies.

Badger Books can look up any registered voter in the state of Wisconsin. Poll workers will be able to tell the voter if they are at the right polling location, what forms of ID are accepted, etc.

Voters will be asked for their signature on the final screen. The poll worker then prints out a slip that voters take to the next table to receive their ballot.

Help screens are also built in to the program in case a poll worker needs assistance during the process.

A bar code scanner is also attached to each Badger Book. The scanner can scan an ID or any other form from the DOT to pre-load your personal information.

Davies said the scanner can cut down registration time by 60%, but the real time saver comes after the voting process.

“When they’re trying to reconcile registrations and stuff like that, it used to take three to four days of staff time,” Davies said. “They’re getting that done in three to four hours now.”

Wisconsin Elections Commission public information officer Reid Magney said the Badger Books only communicate with each other and are not connected to the internet. Magney said this system was designed from the ground up with security in mind.

“When they do take the data from this at the end of the day, it’s done on a secure memory stick,” Magney said. “These are never connected to any other network.”

Magney said in case of a system crash, paper poll books will be available as a backup. He added that not all municipalities that have Badger Books will have them available at every polling location. Voters will need to call the local clerk and ask.

Magney said Wisconsin Elections Commission staff are traveling around Wisconsin to train people on how to use the new system. There are currently 23 municipalities already using the system and 53 more that will start using it this year.

Current owners:

Fort Atkinson, Omro, Reedsburg, City of Rice Lake, Sun Prairie, Trenton, Cottage Grover, DeForest, Jackson, Pleasant Prairie, Slinger, Weston, Wrightstown, Elkhorn, Lancaster, Monona, Washington, Waukesha, Bayside, Campbellsport, Hales Corners, McFarland, Salem Lakes.

New Municipalities for 2020:

Appleton, Ashland, Baraboo, Beloit, Clintonville, De Pere, Delevan, Edgerton, Fitchburg, Franklin, Greenfield, Hudson, Lake Geneva, Lake Mills, Manitowoc, Mequon, Middleton, Neenah, New Richmond, Portage, Racine, River Falls, Verona, West Allis, Brookfield, Darien, Eagle Point, Geneva, Hammond, Hudson, Lawrence, Ledgeview, Mukwonago, Pittsfield, Town of Rice Lake, Richmond, Russell, St. Joseph, Westport, Baldwin, Caledonia, Fox Crossing, Hartland, Hobart, Mazomanie, Mukwonago, Shorewood, Shorewood Hills, Somers, Summit, Waunakee, Windsor, Woodville.