The new approach to casting ballots seemed to be a hit with the territory’s voters during the primary election on Saturday. Voters, many of them for the first time, familiarized themselves with the DS 200, a product of Elections Systems and Software, or ES&S. The machine allows voters to fill in a paper ballot so that there is a lasting record of the vote, but it also has the speed and convenience of an electronic voting machine. “It was just inserting a paper,” said Courtney Reese, a voter at Charlotte Amalie High School poll location. “You didn’t really even interact with the machine. It was like scanning or faxing something.” The V.I. Elections System purchased the 43 machines from Elections Systems & Software for $646,480 in 2013, and since has been organizing public demonstrations of the machines and how they work. The machines have been certified by the Election Assistance Commission, which is not required under federal law but is required under Virgin Islands law.
Voters entered a private booth to mark their paper ballots. They then fed their ballots into the machines, which instantly told the voters whether they were spoiled. If the ballot is spoiled – such as if a voter marks too many candidates for a particular office or does not mark a candidate in a race – the voter can choose to fill out a new ballot.
The machine can accept up to 1,000 ballots, which are stored in a compartment within the machine that the poll judges, who oversee the locations, can access with a key. “People like it. They had the ability to see the names that they are voting for,” said Jennifer Matthias, a polling judge at Tutu Park Mall.
In previous elections, people had to press a button for the candidate that they wanted to vote for, but they did not always trust that the button would cast a vote for the right person, Matthias said. “You have more control because you have the ballot in your hand,” she said.