Touchscreen voting is here

Posted 9/7/22

I test drove the EV on Thursday.

Well, actually it wasn’t a test drive. It was for real. I voted in the Democratic primary.

And to be precise, I was the 15th Warwick voter to use the …

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Touchscreen voting is here


I test drove the EV on Thursday.

Well, actually it wasn’t a test drive. It was for real. I voted in the Democratic primary.

And to be precise, I was the 15th Warwick voter to use the Express Vote. As the name implies, the Express Vote can be fast although on the first run – like driving – it takes some instruction. Fortunately, Hilary Armstrong was there to walk me through the process.

I was introduced to the latest innovation in voting in Rhode Island the first day of early voting. Warwick’s early voting poll is in the basement of City Hall and resembles what you can expect to find when primary election polls open next Tuesday at your polling place. As you walk in, you go through the process of handing over your identification, stating your address and signing on an electronic keypad. If you’re an unaffiliated voter, as I am, you declare whether to plan to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. It’s at that point you’re handed a ballot and directed to a row of elevated platforms with privacy shields on three sides to mark your ballot.

The final step is feeding the ballot into a machine that records it and drops it into a secured box below.

The Express Vote had a black hood giving the appearance of flight simulator. On that first day of voting Kerry Nardolillo, the city’s director of elections, was seated in front of it. She had previously told me the Express Vote would replace the AutoMark that was used for blind and handicapped voters. Also, she said the Express Vote would be made available to all voters and in some states was being used in place of pre-printed ballots.

Kerry pulled back to show me the screen listing the candidates running in the district where she was about to cast her ballot. The names were listed in large, easy to read type. It was then I realized Kerry wasn’t providing a demo, but was voting. I backed away as she completed voting. When finished the machine ejected the ballot listing her selections. She turned it over and fed it into the ballot box.

On Thursday Hilary walked me through the process. She entered the code for my polling district, 3505, and then handed me a blank ballot that I fed into the machine like a credit card into an ATM. Up popped my choices in the race for the Second Congressional District.

I touched one of the names and showed me how I could change my vote by selecting another. If pleased with that, I could proceed to the next screen listing choices in the race for school committee. At any point I could go back to any of the previous screens and change my vote.

Hilary pointed out I could also change the size of the font on any of the screens, making it larger and easier to read. If the voter still had problems, Express Vote has ear phones and a keypad with four yellow triangular shaped keys with braille and buttons that can be maneuvered to make a selection.

Hilary left me to vote. I breezed through the process, testing the feature of reviewing my vote in each of the races – even changing my vote – before completing the ballot and having the machine eject it. The printed ballot clearly listed my choices. Express Vote does not record the name of the person casting the ballot, nor does that appear on the printed ballot.

One last feature that makes Express Vote different from the traditional ballot with its bubbles to be blacked in is casting the ballot. It feeds into a narrower slot on top of the ballot box.

Was it easier than marking the traditional ballot? Unequivocally, the answer is yes. It can be faster and it allows you to not only check how you voted, but also easily change your vote. I especially liked reviewing my ballot at the end of the process and verifying my choices rather than being left to wonder if I had sufficiently darkened those bubbles for the machine to read my vote.

The drawback? Well, it’s new technology for Rhode Island voters and as we all know from our experiences with computers, cell phones and even self-serve service stations – remember the first time using a credit card to buy gasoline? – there’s a learning curve.

It’s not a steep curve and one I would suggest you take should you choose to vote in the primary. And if you have reservations, go early and meet the gang at the City Hall poll. They’ll walk you through it.

Side, editorial


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