TOPEKA (KSNT) – Shawnee County Election officials know what went wrong at the polls during the elections. With a near record 60% turnout, higher than the statewide average, there were a number of very unhappy voters.
If voters had one complaint on Tuesday, it was waiting in long lines to cast a ballot or in some cases even being told to come back later.
“Any time you implement new technology you’re going to have a learning curve for board workers,” Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell said.
Howell, says the problems boil down to two issues: technology and training. First, there were problems with the iPads used by the county to replace the old fashioned paper registration rolls. While the iPads were supposed to speed up the process, most polling places had just a single device, and frequently in the early hours they simply didn’t work.
The election office plans to have at least two of these poll pads in each polling location in the next general election. The other chief issue was training.
Last week Howell said all the volunteers who work the polls had undergone three hours of training on the new system. It’s clear now they weren’t as prepared as the county hoped they would be.
“But right now there is this learning curve because so many people don’t understand the technology and they’re a little bit afraid of it,” poll worker Shirley Evans said.
But solving both problems depends on money. Money to buy more equipment and money to train more people more comprehensively.
“I do expect if we get some new equipment that we’ll be able to report the results a lot quicker,” Howell said.
But without a significant investment beyond what the county currently has budgeted for elections, the fixes may not be ready for 2016 – the next statewide general election.
The statewide voter turnout is 49%, the number just missed the 50% mark forecast last week by the Secretary of State.