Precinct ballot counter system encouraged by Secretary of State

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 9/1/99.

Sec. of State Kiffmeyer Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer was in Paynesville Tuesday afternoon to talk about a county-wide precinct ballot counter system.

"Hand count, central count, and mail-in balloting does not allow voters to correct their ballots," Kiffmeyer said. "Consequently, there is more spoilage of ballots, about five percent in primaries where there are no ballot counters."

"Precinct ballot counters drop the spoilage rate to about one-tenth of one percent and removes the burden from election judges of determining voter intent," she added. "Precinct ballot counters provide the technology to spot mistakes on ballots, giving voters the opportunity to correct and resubmit their ballot."

During the months of August, September, and October, Kiffmeyer will attend all 14 township district meetings to talk with officials about the ballot counter system.

Working with the department of administration, her office has developed a statewide contract from which townships, cities, and counties can obtain precinct ballot counters at a reduced rate.

The vendors, selected by a panel of local and state election officials, would provide reconditioned voting machines at a cost as low as $500 or for new ones ranging from $3,500 to $4,200.

Kiffmeyer feels use of the ballot counter system would make it easier to recruit election judges and save townships money, as they would be done by 9 p.m.

Kiffmeyer suggested that another cost savings for precincts would be to share ballot counter systems. Township ballots are bar coded and they could share the same site and machines at election time.

At present, in Meeker County, there are 30 townships using central count voting systems; in Stearns County 50 out of 97 precincts still hand count their ballots while the others are precinct count; in Kandiyohi County 48 precincts use central count systems and only one (Willmar) uses a precinct count system.

The Stearns County Auditors office explains that central count is where voters mark their ballots at their local precinct and the ballots are counted by machine at the county level, not at the precinct.

"We should not have two classes of voters in Minnesota, and I hope that by making this technology more affordable, disparities between precincts that have this technology and those that do not will be reduced," she added.

"Currently, there is a shortage of election judges statewide," Kiffmeyer said. "It is the responsibility of the political parties to provide lists of potential election judges to their county election officials."

Anyone interested in serving as an election judge should contact their county party chairperson: DFL, Jim Read, 320- 356-9347; or IR-Jeff Blease, 320-240-1400, or Valerie Muggli, 320-597-2839.

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