Ahead of the state’s April 4 election, Dunn County, Wis., is rolling out new voting technology aimed to streamline the voting process.

According to the state, 12 municipalities in Dunn County will be checked in for the upcoming election by poll workers using new Badger Books technology. The new technology replaces the traditional paper poll book with an electronic version of the same poll book.

With Badger Books, poll workers use a tablet to check in voters on Election Day, assign a voter number, process absentee ballots, conduct Election Day registrations, and send voting information to the state after the election is completed. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said he hopes the use of Badger Books will become more prevalent across the state.

“The Badger Book serves the same exact purpose as a regular poll book,” said Andrew Mercil, Dunn County Clerk, who is leading the Badger Book transition in the county. “The voter will show up to the polls, they will bring their ID, and election inspectors will look at the ID to verify that that is the person who wants to vote.”

The new electronic poll book will help improve efficiency as poll workers can now either look up the voter’s name quickly or scan the back of the driver’s license to retrieve pertinent information for that voter. The Dunn County town of Red Cedar used Badger Books for the February primary and found that it greatly reduced the check-in time for voters. Clerk Cheryl Miller said that checking in voters using the paper poll book took roughly 90 seconds per voter, but Badger Books has dropped that time to 15 to 30 seconds per voter.

Post election, the poll book is downloaded onto a secure drive. Voters will then be able to access the state’s myvote.wi.gov to verify that their vote was calculated, tabulated, and counted in the election.

Mercil said that seven municipalities used Badger Book for voter check-in for the February primary and that will increase to 12 for the April 4 election.  An additional 11 municipalities have expressed an interest in using the technology for the 2024 election cycle, he said.

“This is the way of the future,” Mercil said, “and most people are going to be able to see a Badger Book when they go to their polling locations within the next year.”

Addressing election security concerns, Mercil said there’s no danger of Badger Books being hacked because it is never connected to the internet.

“A hacker is not able to access the Badger Book,” Mercil said. Only certified election clerks have access, and there is a three-step authentication process, including a biometric security, to access the information, he said. “So it’s not possible for a person to hack this.”

In terms of expanding the use of Badger Books, Gov. Evers has proposed a $400,000 grant program in the 2023-25 state budget to encourage municipalities to purchase Badger Books for their election officials. Mercil said in a statement that he hopes the measure is approved so that more municipalities can access this important technology.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs