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e poll book

The state Elections Commission says it's giving municipalities the tools to implement electronic poll books, or devices used in lieu of paper rosters at election polling places, in time for the 2018 election cycle. Pictured is a polling place at La Follette High School in Madison.

The state Elections Commission says it’s giving municipalities the tools to implement electronic, instead of paper, poll books in time for the 2018 election cycle.

Commissioners in June approved building an electronic poll book system and offering the software, at no cost, to Wisconsin’s municipal clerks, who partner with the commission to administer elections.

The commission says it intends to pilot the system in at least three jurisdictions in the 2018 spring elections and make it available to all for the 2018 August primary election.

E-poll book use will be voluntary for each of the more than 1,800 cities, villages or towns in Wisconsin, each of which administers elections within its boundary. Last month the commission began to survey municipal clerks about how they think the new system should function.

Jurisdictions in at least 27 states use e-poll books, Pew Charitable Trusts reported in March. They allow poll workers to check in or register voters using a laptop or tablet e-poll book instead of a paper poll book.

Commission director Michael Haas has acknowledged e-poll books present cyber-security concerns. U.S. officials reportedly believe Russian-backed efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. elections included cyber-incursions into voter databases and software systems in various states, including Illinois.

E-poll books are not linked to voting or vote-counting machines and would not be connected to the internet while in use at polling places on Election Day, Haas said.

In states where e-poll books are used, Haas said security concerns have been outweighed by the benefits to voters and election workers. E-poll books shorten check-in lines for voters at polling places and simplify election workers’ jobs on and after Election Day, he said.

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Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.