By John Anderson
With polarized voters committed to this fall’s Presidential Election, turnout is expected to be huge, and Town Clerk Deb Gremo is one step ahead. With most of Auburn’s election workers being older and in declining numbers, Gremo turned to Auburn High School AP Government & Politics teacher Spencer Kennard. 34 of his students were trained and sworn in as election workers for the town and will assist in various ways on Election Day.
Each of the high school seniors has committed to at least 3 hours of work, and many want to be in the high school gymnasium for the duration. Kennard told Auburn Mass Daily, “I am completely blown away by how the students are willing to spend their day off helping with the election.” Their training came from the Town Clerk’s office with the assistance of Ed Roberts, the Customer Relations Manager from LHS Associates which sold Auburn the updated voting machines that appeared during the recent State Primary.
This year, and for the first time in the Commonwealth, early voting is being allowed as are Poll Pads, an electronic method of keeping track of voters. LHS is the supplier for Auburn’s two Poll Pads as well, and they are certified for both early voting and town meeting registration. It is likely they will soon be approved for general elections, but not this fall.
At a training session on Thursday morning, the election workers who will staff early voting at Town Hall beginning today at 8:00am were trained by Roberts on the use of the Poll Pad devices. After 2 or 3 practice runs, each worker was confident in the use of the Poll Pad, and support will be in place if there is any confusion. Auburn is one of only 32 communities in Massachusetts to use this emerging technology, but it will likely replace the burdensome paper voter lists currently in use. 17 other states are using Poll Pads as well.
Roberts told the trainees that professional hackers have been unable to get in to the data and the most difficult part of the training was connecting the components. He said, “This is a well written program that prevents multiple voting by a person.”
With a single voting location in Auburn, Poll Pads will use Bluetooth technology to communicate. Cities like Boston, that also uses Poll Pads, rely on cloud technology to monitor voter participation.
The core of the Poll Pad is the Apple iPad and each unit with a printer costs $1,700. Auburn has purchased 2 units, and Town Clerk Gremo said that at a recent training session, she was told the Commonwealth will reimburse cities and towns the $900 it would have cost to rent each unit. Essentially, Auburn could net a third Poll Pad at no additional expense, but future purchases are contingent on the state’s certification for general elections.
It is terrific to see the Town Clerk’s office moving forward with new technology, and the student participation is wonderful as well. As Kennard said, “If they are any indication of the future of our country, I am hopeful.”
Early voting will take place at Town Hall during regular business hours through November 4, 2016. Extended hours are being offered on Saturday, October 29th, from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Come out and vote!