County unveils new voting machines
Voters in Steele County will be utilizing new voting machines as they cast their ballots next week.
This year Steele County has replaced its older voting machines with new DS200s. There are 27 voting machines utilized to cover the county’s 26 voting precincts and one extra for the county auditor’s office.
The new DS200 allows county election officials to upgrade to the newest and greatest in election technology, according to Laura Ihrke, county auditor, who also serves as the county’s chief election official. “The newer model is an upgrade,” she said.
Ihrke said the new machines are replacing the older machines that have been used for more than 10 years.
One of the features offered with the new models is an electronic monitor that provides voters with instructions and immediate feedback. The machines are touted to be accurate, secure, reliable, compatible and comprehensive. The technology ensures even the most poorly marked ballots are read accurately and consistently—protecting voter intent.
Voters will notice little difference with the new machines as the process will basically work the same as it has in the past, Ihrke said. She added the machines can process 11 ballots per minute.
Ihrke said the county was successful in obtaining a $48,000 voting equipment grant through the state to help pay for the new machines, which cost around $134,000. The difference was paid through the county’s general fund. She noted the county traded in the old equipment to offset some of the cost.
The county’s election equipment was last updated in 2006. “It was reaching the end of its life span,” Ihrke said.
She noted the county utilized the new machine during the primary in August and found things worked well. The only difference was there weren’t many voters to use the machines as only 20 percent of registered voters turned out for the primary.
Ihrke expects high voter turnout of 75-80 percent for this year’s general election. She said media coverage and the fact that more people are engaged and want to get involved as reasons for higher turnout.
The record turnout of almost 83 percent was set during the 2016 presidential election. She is predicting a turnout of 75-80 percent this year. There are 21,238 registered voters in Steele County.
The auditor’s office will be open this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for absentee voting. “This will be convenient for those who work out of town,” Ihrke said.