There will be much less handling of ballots in Yakima County this election, thanks to a new $200,000 machine that systematically counts, verifies and sorts each ballot into its corresponding precinct. “It will save a lot of time and a lot of hands by not pulling other auditors away from their jobs to help us,” county Elections Manager Kathy Fisher said Monday as a representative from the manufacturer demonstrated how to use the machine. Although the new machine won’t speed up the time it takes to count votes, it will get ballots to the counting process faster.
Until now, the five workers in the elections department would carry trays of 300 ballots to their desk and hand-scan barcodes on each ballot envelope and verify voters’ signatures by comparing them to signatures of past elections. Then, they would sort them into their corresponding precincts.
The new machine handles all that. Inserted at the front of the machine, ballots are swept into a track that quickly sends them past a camera and eventually into one of several small bays where they are neatly stacked. Each ballot’s barcode and signature are photographed and uploaded into a database that automatically scans and verifies them.