Because of the unusually short gap between the March 15 presidential primary and the April 5 local election, St. Louis and St. Louis County will be able to offer only optical-scan paper balloting for the second vote. Normally both optical-scan and touch-screen devices are available at polling places in the two jurisdictions. But officials with the city and county election boards say the three-week period between elections isn’t long enough to reprogram all the touch-screen machines needed for April and test them again as required by law. “There just physically isn’t time,” said Gary Stoff, Republican director for the city board. Eric Fey, Democratic director for the county board, said far fewer optical scan machines are needed because each one processes ballots cast at several voting stands. So, he said, it takes less time to replace the memory cards in all the optical scan machines than it does to replace ballot information cartridges in the touch-screen machines.
Because only optical-scan voting will be used in April, both the city and county are ordering significantly more paper ballots than they normally use at such elections.
For that reason, city and county officials don’t expect the lack of touch-screen machines to cause backlogs at the polls.
The county has ordered 350,000 paper ballots, up from 130,000 supplied for the election last April. That is costing about $55,000 more. Fey said for such elections, about 83 percent of county voters typically use touch-screen machines.