Time to upgrade that aging election equipment: Counties including Becker, Otter Tail, Wadena and Hubbard are taking advantage of $7 million in state matching grant money. It provides up to a 50 percent match for mandatory equipment, such as optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters, or assistive voting devices, and up to a 75 percent match for electronic rosters. Becker County asked for, and was granted $71,000 for new equipment. That means the county will have to kick in another $71,000 towards the total purchase price. “We will be using it for voting equipment, we will not be purchasing (electronic) poll books at this time,” said Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Mary Hendrickson.
Otter Tail County asked for $405,000 and was granted $169,000. That was kind of disappointing, said Otter Tail Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein. “I was hoping for the $250,000 to $300,000 range,” he said. “We’ll have discussions and come up with a plan on how to proceed with it.”
His priority is to obtain new DS200 ballot counter and vote tabulator machines, since some of the old M100 units are starting to show their age. “The scanner bars start to go on the older ones, they can’t read ballots,” he said. The DS200 also has a larger (12-inch) screen that helps voters and election officials recognize and correct a problem more easily, he said. The new machines will be prioritized by precinct size. “You just get a bigger bang for the buck to put the counters at the biggest precincts,” Stein said. Same goes for the electronic poll books.
The DS200 does have some enhanced security features, but security is less of a concern with the ballot counters, since they aren’t connected to the Internet and its legion of hackers.