Scott County voters will be the first in Iowa to be able to utilize a new web-based tool to see and interact with sample ballots for the June 7 primary, the auditor's office announced Monday.
Auditor Roxanna Mortiz said the system is "convenient, simple and completely safe" for voters to use.
The interactive sample ballots, which have been accessible since Friday, allows people to type in a name and date of birth to get the ballot that fits their part of the county. Voters then can pick their candidates and print out a ballot. Alternatively, they can download the ballot to a computer or mobile device.
The ballot is a sample, and actual votes are still only cast at a polling place or via absentee ballots. But officials say this will help people see their choices and make selections before going to a polling place or voting with an absentee ballot.
Roland Caldwell, operations manager for the auditor's office, says it's legal to take a sample ballot to the polls. And while it is not widespread, some people use the sample ballots currently on the auditor's web site to help them cast their votes. This feature will allow them to mark a choice online.
In addition to printing out a sample ballot, the interactive ballot can be transferred to a computer or mobile app and converted to speech, helping people with visual impairments, Caldwell said.
Election officials say using the interactive sample ballot is anonymous. Also, Caldwell said, no records of voters using the sample ballots are kept by the auditor's office.
A test of the system Monday, though, revealed some sensitivity. Using a shortened first name did not allow access to a ballot. Caldwell said to gain access the name must be as it appears on the voter's registration form.
Caldwell said the initiative cost is about $5,000 annually. The county is providing the service through Democracy Live, a vendor of ballot and voter information technologies based in Snoqualmie, Wash.
On its website, Democracy Live says it has partnered with Microsoft Corp. to provide secure voting and balloting technologies. It says it has contracted with the Defense Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide services for military voters and those with disabilities.