New voting machines on tap
If you’re in the ever-shrinking minority of voters who still like to cast ballots at the polling center on election day, you might notice some different machinery this year.
But even if you don’t go to the polls, you will still reap the benefits of Pitkin County’s more than $160,000 worth of new voting machines because results will be available much sooner, said Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill.
“We’re excited about it,” she said. “Our old system was so antiquated, it was difficult to find customer support and we couldn’t share resources with other counties.”
Though some equipment specifically for disabled people was purchased in 2006, the county hasn’t bought new elections machines since 2001, Vos Caudill said. When she priced new machines in 2013, Vos Caudill received a quote of more than $350,000.
However, thanks to advances in technology and an agreement worked out between the same company, Dominion Voting, and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, the price came down more than 50 percent this year to $160,465, Vos Caudill said. For that price, the county will receive 23 actual voting machines as well as other equipment that goes along with them, she said.
That money comes out of Pitkin County’s budget, though Vos Caudill pointed out that her budget for replacing such equipment is now $236,000, so it won’t break the bank, she said.
With the new machines, voters will use a touch screen connected to a printer to cast their votes. After the voter is done, the ballot is printed, turned in and eventually taken to the county’s new Elections Bureau offices at the Ute Building, 501 E. Hyman Ave. It used to take an hour to count 400 ballots, but the new machines can count that number of ballots in five to 10 minutes, Vos Caudill said.
Anyone curious about how the new machines work can go to the Ute Building from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday for a demonstration, Vos Caudill said.
Pitkin County’s acquisition of the new machines was prompted by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and the need for all of the state’s 64 counties to have a uniform voting system, said Lynn Bartels, Secretary of State spokeswoman. The state’s current patchwork of voting systems can be problematic when people who run the systems leave or need assistance with them because the expertise often doesn’t exist anymore, she said.
Also, as Vos Caudill pointed out, counties with the same voting systems can share resources and personnel if necessary, Bartels said.
The state put together a committee that identified four voting-system companies whose products were tried out by eight different counties in November, Bartels said. After that election, the committee unanimously picked Dominion as the first choice, she said.
“It just makes such a difference,” Bartels said.
Twenty-two counties are converting this year and 20 next year, Vos Caudill said. The rest will follow suit soon after.
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