Faster, more reliable voting machines are arriving just in time to help handle an expansion of absentee voting in Minnesota and a high-profile test of Minneapolis’ ranked-choice voting in this fall’s mayoral election. Six of the seven metro-area counties are spending millions to replace hundreds of 13-year-old optical-scan ballot-counting machines, taking advantage of federal grants and the recent certification of new voting technology. Ballots cast by Minneapolis residents will be fed into the machines during the mayoral election in November, which will be the most high-profile test yet of the city’s system that allows voters to pick a first, second and third choice. The new equipment will eliminate the hand counting that took 15 days in 2009.
New voting machines will be in place for fall elections. The Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of a new stand alone central scanner, for counting absentee ballots, and 45 precinct vote scanners. The equipment will be purchased from Election Systems and Software at a cost of $322,750. The company demonstrated their latest equipment for the board June 18. Representatives of the company told the board the new equipment takes a lot of the stress away from poll workers, because it is so easy to use. The new central scanner, a DS850, is supposed to make counting absentee ballots easier. The current M650 scanner can scan equally as fast, if there were no voting variables, but the problem with the machine is that it stops every time there is an anomaly, such as an over vote – voting for more than one candidate in a given position – or write-in vote.
The Anoka County Board has awarded a contract for new election equipment that will be in place in time for the 2013 election Nov. 5. The new equipment plus election services from Election Systems & Software will cost up to $1,530,251.30 and replace the existing equipment, which is obsolete. A 10-year joint powers agreement was approved last year by the county, school districts and cities in the county that spells out a cost-sharing formula to pay for the new equipment, its maintenance and operations. According to Cindy Reichert, Anoka County elections manager, the software associated with the new equipment will begin arriving the week of June 24. But delivery of the 140 ballot counters that the county is purchasing under the contract won’t be delivered until August, Reichert said.