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Minn. Task Force Seeks New Voting Rosters Study

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota panel that led a pilot project around an electronic voter verification process is urging the Legislature to authorize a more extensive study this fall.

The Electronic Roster Task Force was meeting Friday to finalize a report and proposed legislation. The recommendations they were set to adopt seek a broader examination of the effectiveness and expense of a higher-tech alternative to the paper sign-in process at polling places. The panel asks the state to pick up costs of the next study and any technological needs required for local election administrators to carry out the test.

The review would occur at more sites and in a busier environment than the 2013 pilot. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said a higher turnout election would offer a better handle of the costs versus benefits.

“The takeaway is that it was a limited test with the ability to move some information digitally in one direction and in some very small precincts in a very light election and with many different vendors,” Ritchie said in a phone interview Thursday. “The true test is in a regular turnout election.”

Advocates of e-poll books argue they can guard against voter fraud, cut wait times and reduce errors from data now entered manually. The test didn’t include the use of voter photos in the electronic rosters and task force members found that technology is not ready to adequately support incorporating them.

Even if lawmakers balk at a new study, some jurisdictions could decide to move ahead on their own.

“Although the task force recommends an additional study for the 2014 election, the task force notes that nothing prevents a jurisdiction from using electronic rosters so long as the electronic rosters comply with Minnesota law,” the panel’s report to the Legislature says.

If Minnesota takes the e-poll books in the future, lawmakers would have to decide whether the state and county officials would join to build their own electronic roster software or if each would contract with existing vendors to supply it.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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