A Powerful Tool to Help Election Officials with the Potential to Prevent Fraud

One of the key recommendations RNLA agreed with in the Presidential Commission on Election Administration’s report was that election officials adopt the use of electronic poll books to check-in voters at the polling place:

An e-pollbook is an electronic version of the paper pollbook. It is simply a list of eligible voters in the relevant jurisdiction, which traditionally has been organized alphabetically or by address of the voter. The e-pollbooks provide poll workers with the ability to locate a voter’s information quickly and accurately, to confirm a voter’s registration status, and to prescribe the appropriate ballot. The e-pollbook provides greater flexibility to those who are checking in people to vote, compared to the traditional paper list.

In RNLA’s to the PCEA report, we agreed with the PCEA’s recommendation that states should adopt the use of electronic pollbooks for the reasons outlined in the PCEA report. We also see additional value for electronic pollbooks as a potential fraud deterrent by including voters’ photographs in the check-in record: 

[O]ne promising idea that some states have considered is enhancing electronic poll books by adding the display of photographs to the registered voter’s record. This would be done through interfacing with state DMV databases so voters’ state identification photos can be displayed along with their name and other identifying information. This system would allow a poll worker to display a voter’s photograph on the poll book along with their other identifying information when checking in the voter, verifying that the voter is the same person in the image provided by DMV. This idea would be particularly helpful to states that do not have a Photo ID requirement. This technology should be piloted by states to gauge its effectiveness in accurately ensuring the identity of voters and providing for a more accurate check-in process.

Interestingly, this idea has been floated by both Democrats and Republicans. Democrat Secretaries of State in Nevada and Minnesota have advocated for this idea, presumably since it would allow election officials to verify the identity of voters by means of photograph without actually requiring the voter him or herself to appear with a photo ID. Legislation was also introduced in Virginia that would have implemented the idea but it did not pass. (See SB1072, Obenshain.)  

States are moving to integrate their various data sources and within the near future obtaining photographs of all individuals in the DMV system for such a system should not be too difficult. Election officials could use these photographs for the 90% plus of voters that have a DMV record. Finding a way to obtain the photographs of those voters without DMV records could be more difficult but it is not impossible. For example, many college students register to vote and do not have Driver’s Licenses but may have photographs on file with their universities for their student IDs. States could work internally to tap into these additional records to obtain photographs for an extremely high percentage of their voters. For those remaining voters, they could photograph them at the polling place to have a photographic record of the voter.

States should work to at least implement this as a pilot program to determine its effectiveness and preventing fraud as well as ensuring the right person gets checked in at the polling place when voting.