New technology for Appleton voters

A voter at Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton registers to vote on a laptop on Aug. 12, 2014. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

APPLETON - Some voters in Appleton had a choice to use new technology at the polls Tuesday. People registering to vote could fill out and print off an online form.

Siddharth Shukla voted for the first time.

"It feels pretty great," said Shukla.

And Greg Gonnering recently changed his address.

"Moved in November of last year," said Gonnering.

Both sat down at a laptop and registered to vote by using the My Vote Wisconsin website. At most other polling sites, the process normally involves filling out a form by hand.

"The purpose really is just to add an option for the voters to ease for them if they don't want to write out a form and also for the election inspectors in having to accept the registration," said Dawn Collins, Appleton City Clerk.

Collins' staff set up laptops and printers at two polling locations: Fox Valley Lutheran High School and Celebration Lutheran Church.

"After today, we're just looking for the feedback and the ease on the inspectors," said Collins.

Collins said her staff will assess the new procedure and possibly expand it in three months.

"Hopefully implement a handful more at the November election," said Collins.

Kevin Loosen, the chief election inspector at Fox Valley Lutheran, said the low-turnout primary was a good opportunity to test the new process.

"We're one of the busier polling locations, so we thought it was a good time to do it," said Loosen. "You can test it and make sure we don't have issues with the wireless internet."

He said reaction from voters was positive.

"We have not had one bad response to it," said Loosen. "The nice thing is people can do it at home if they want, too."

Gonnering agreed it was easy to use, but said it might be faster to fill out the form at home.

"I think it's good if the people know to do it online versus having to come in and sit down," he said. "So, the primary I think it was fine, but if it was the regular election I think it'd be a little more of a hassle if you have a longer line."

Collins said laptops could work well at polling sites for high school and Lawrence University students.

Shukla also expects the online option will be popular with young voters.

"It was good," he said. "It was nice and easy, fast, simple. I liked it."

People can still choose to fill out a form by hand. According to Collins, the change comes with no expense for taxpayers because the city already owned the equipment.

Collins said a few other cities around the state also use computers to register voters at the polls.