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Voters to see new machines at polls

Election workers Donna Olson, left, and Rose Reijo work on setting up the new polling machines at election official training at the government center in Superior on Thursday morning. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

When voters head to the polls next month in Douglas County, the voting machines will look a lot different than they've been accustomed to for more than a decade, but the process will be largely the same.

Voters will make their choices on a paper ballot with a black ballpoint pen, then run them through a scanner that will tabulate the votes.

The biggest change in the equipment is the ExpressVote, which replaces the old AutoMarks used by people with physical or visual limitations that would affect their ability to cast a ballot.

The AutoMarks were big and clunky, and they marked the ballots used by other voters, Douglas County Clerk Sue Sandvick said.

The ExpressVote, an electronic universal voting system, is lightweight and easy to set up, and allows a variety of adaptive technologies to be use to help people with disabilities cast their vote.

The benefit of the system is that it can be used by any voter if the polling place runs out of ballots, Sandvick said.

The system prints out barcodes for each selection as well as the names of selected candidates so voters can review their choices. For people with visual impairments, their voting options are read to them, and their choices read back to them, before the printout is put through the scanner for tabulation.

The ES&S DS200 precinct scanner and tabulator replaces the M100s used at the polls in Superior and Douglas County for the last dozen years. In addition to scanning and tabulating the votes, the system creates an image of every ballot cast.

Passwords, imaging of each ballot and encryption help to protect the integrity of the election, according to Kyle Weber of Election Systems & Software, the firm behind the DS200 precinct scanner and tabulator, and the ExpressVote electronic universal voting system the county will roll out for the Aug. 14 primary election.

Election results will be transmitted electronically utilizing a Verizon wireless network to the County Clerk's Office after the polls close. Transmitting the results will allow clerks in rural districts to submit their results without making the drive to Superior on election night, Sandvick said. Ballots, USB data sticks, poll books and other voting apparatus can be turned in the following day.

Election officials countywide were trained on the new equipment Thursday, July 19.

Superior City Clerk Terri Kalan said they will have another chance to get familiar with the new during pre-election training before the public test of the voting equipment is run the week before the Aug. 14 election.