The iPad is paving the way for a smoother voting experience in Johnson County for people who have just become U.S. citizens.
For the past year, the Johnson County Election Office has loaned a secure iPad to League of Women Voters volunteers who attend the monthly naturalization ceremonies to sign up new voters. The iPad allows them to snap a picture of the naturalization certificates as proof of citizenship under Kansas law.
The “iPad, iRegister” program earned the election office national recognition last month for best practices Minute Man Award from the National Association of Election Officials. It is the office’s second award for the use of tablet technology to aid voting. Last year, the election office was given an award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for its use of tablets to provide information at polling places.
The naturalization ceremony is presided over by a federal judge at various locations in the Kansas City area. After the ceremony, the new citizens can come to a reception in another room where cookies and punch are served by the Daughters of the American Revolution, said Diane Kuhn, co-president of the League of Women Voters.
It’s at that reception that the league hands out information on voting and assists with registration forms, she said.
The iPad makes it convenient for new citizens to register, since they have their certificate handy to be photographed, said Elections Commissioner Brian Newby. Otherwise, election officials would have to keep the forms in a “pending” file until the proof of citizenship could be faxed, emailed or texted, he said. “This eliminates the need to take that extra step,” Newby said.
The league has sent 50 to 60 registrations per month from the naturalization ceremonies, totaling about 600 since the program began, he said. He expects the number to top 1,000 by the end of the year.
The election office already had tablets in use for poll workers, but had been looking for ways to expand their use. When the league asked for help in getting naturalized citizens registered, the office made the iPad available. Newby said it can be checked out by other groups holding voter registration drives as well.
Kuhn said the program has been well received. “All I’ve ever heard is praise. It is a win-win — if they will go to the polls,” she said.
This the second best practices award in as many years for the election office. Last year Newby’s online Election Diary blog was recognized. The blog averages nearly 3,000 visits a month and has more than 450 Twitter followers.