Touch-screen terminals were available in Iowa polling places on Tuesday for disabled voters, but election officials around the state say other voters checked out the technology. Black Hawk County Auditor Grant Veeder says since turn-out was light, there wasn’t a line at the machines and some voters decided to try out the touch-screens.
“We want to have that available for people that can vote more easily on that sort of a machine,” Veeder says. “But…if everybody in the precinct used that machine instead of the other one, things would go a lot slower because you can only vote one person at a time whereas with the other, where you mark a paper ballot, we have several booths.” Veeder doesn’t really want to convert to all touch-screens at the precincts.
Scott County Auditor Karen Fitzsimmons agrees. Fitzsimmons says Scott County poll workers were instructed not to encourage use of the touch-screens unless someone needed that technology in order to vote. “I’m not crazy about the whole touch-screen idea because there’s no paper trail,” Fitzsimmons says.
Fitzsimmons talked with Radio Iowa over the noon-hour on Tuesday. “There’s been a lot of publicity about the fact that we have this new equipment but people don’t seem to be interested,” Fitzsimmons says. “I just came from my polling place where I voted and they said no one had used it yet.”
Polk County Auditor Michael Mauro says the touch-screen terminals were used by just a fraction of Des Moines-area voters. “But nothing like we thought we might get,” Mauro says. The vast majority of voters chose to mark a paper ballot and scroll it through the optical scanning machines.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Blouin decided to use the touch-screen technology. Blouin joked with reporters that he was “checkin’ out Chet’s new system” — a reference to rival Chet Culver who as Secretary of State is the state’s Commissioner of Elections. It took several minutes to complete the process and Blouin wasn’t impressed.
“This is going to take forever in a general election,” Blouin said. “Good grief.” Blouin said in primary with fewer voters, there is the luxury of time. But if the machines are going to be that slow in the general election, people will stand in long lines waiting to vote. “I just hope it doesn’t discourage general election turn-out,” Blouin said.