New voting equipment coming to Ramsey County

If all goes as planned for Ramsey County, its voters could see new voting equipment at the polls this November.

The county has planned to follow the trend of other nearby counties and replace its ballot counters.

Ramsey County elections officer Joe Mansky said Ramsey County would vote to approve the new $2.1 million system, called the Verity system, Aug. 18, and cities and school districts within the county will need to approve the equipment’s use before Sept. 5.

The new central ballot counters used to count absentee ballots will speed up the process, Mansky said. While Ramsey County election officials currently have to hand-feed absentee ballots through a central counter, the new system will count multiple batches of absentee ballots at the same time.

This is especially important for Minnesota’s counties after the state’s Legislature implemented “no excuse” absentee voting last year, Mansky said, which allows citizens to vote absentee without a stated excuse. Ramsey County received about 24,500 absentee ballots during the last presidential election in 2012, and Mansky said he expects this number will nearly double in 2016.

The new ballot counters in polling places will be similar to the current counters but will more clearly notify voters when their ballots have been accurately processed, Mansky said.

The new equipment will also allow Ramsey County to replace parts and update software on its own, which isn’t possible with the current 14-year-old voting system, Mansky added.

Ramsey County will be the first county in Minnesota to deploy the Verity system, although Hennepin, Anoka and Washington counties installed similar systems within the past two years.

Anoka County elections manager Cindy Reichert said the transition to the new equipment was seamless for most Anoka County voters because the machines are so similar to the previous counters.

“We love our new equipment, it’s wonderful,” Reichert said.

Mansky said Minnesota’s Secretary of State Steve Simon certified Ramsey County’s use of the new election equipment Jan. 16.

Mansky expects Ramsey County will approve the new equipment along with the county’s cities and school districts, most of which have decided to wait to decide whether or not to approve the equipment’s use until after or shortly before Ramsey County makes their vote.

Voting against the new system would mean cities and school districts wouldn’t have any ballot counters to use, Mansky said.

“Since we don’t have the old voting system anymore, I don’t know that they have much of an option here,” Mansky said of the cities and school districts.

Although the new ballot counters will be similar to the current ones, Mansky also said the county would provide more specific information about the ballot counters to the public in September and demonstrator units would be available for voters to practice on in city halls in October.

Danielle Korby can be reached at 651-748-7824 or at staffwriter@lillienews.com. Follow her on twitter @daniellejean701.

 

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