Grand Forks County has received most of its new election equipment, which replaces voting machines that are about 15 years old.
The Legislature authorized $8.2 million for the new machines to add to the $3 million in federal funds doled out to assist in the purchase.
According to County Auditor Debbie Nelson, the equipment arrived two weeks ago and includes 40 new optical scanners, 40 new ExpressVote machines, which are unassisted voting machines, and a new central count machine was received as well. Electronic poll books have yet to arrive.
The optical scanners are part of the vote counting process, according to Nelson.
“When people mark their ballot, they bring it over to the scanner to be counted,” she said.
The voting machines, which are used to mark ballots, can be used by anyone. However, if any voters have difficulty seeing a ballot, they have the option of having it read to them.
The central count machine is a faster ballot counting machine.
“We’ll use that for our absentee voting …. Or if there’s a recount, all ballots will be counted with that machine,” said Nelson, noting that he new machines are very similar in use to the previous ones.
Electronic poll books are replacing paper poll books. By scanning the back of a driver’s license with the new machine, for example, the voter’s information appears to let the poll worker know if the person is voting in the correct location. These new machines aren’t expected to arrive for weeks, as a contract has yet to be signed for them.
“It checks people in,” said Nelson about the new poll books.
Older voting machines have on occasion broken broken down and needed to be replaced.
“We’ve had to replace equipment. We’ve never gone without equipment, but we’ve had to replace old equipment, (it) would break down and we’d bring out another one, and replace that,” Nelson said, adding that there is backup equipment.
In September, the Secretary of State’s office will conduct regional training for county officials on the new machines. The officials will then provide training for poll workers next year.