COUNCIL BLUFFS — The Pottawattamie County Board got a firsthand look at the future of voting this week.
Election Systems & Software demonstrated its latest equipment for the board Tuesday. The board will likely decide June 27 whether to spend $322,000 on a new stand-alone central scanner for counting absentee ballots and 45 precinct vote scanners.
“This is our hardware solution going forward,” said Dean Baumert of ES&S. He said that while the software may be upgraded in coming years, the hardware will be the same for the next seven, 10 or 15 years.
Baumert said the new precinct vote scanner, called the DS200, is more user-friendly than its predecessor.
“The less steps for starting up the polls the better,” said Angie Urosevich of ES&S. When the DS200 starts up, it asks a simple question: “Do you want to open polls?” A touch of the screen gets the equipment ready for voters.
“It takes out all the stress,” Urosevich said. “It eases the poll workers’ minds.”
Baumert said the new central scanner, the DS850, is the only “high-speed digital scanner on the market.” The machine will scan an average of six votes per second.
The current M650 scanner can scan that fast, but it stops every time there is an anomaly, such as an overvote — voting for more than one candidate in a given position — or a write-in vote. The DS850 continues to count and automatically sorts out such exceptions.
Kristi Everett, deputy Pottawattamie County auditor of elections, said another difference that will really save time is the ability of the new equipment to better sort folded votes.
During a demonstration, the M650 jammed numerous times as folded votes were sent through, but the DS850 made quick work of a large stack.
Everett said that is important because the votes the machine counts are absentee votes, meaning they have all been folded at least once.
She said the new machine likely will enable her to begin processing absentee ballots the day of the election rather than starting two days before the election.
“We had to have two (M650s) here during the last election,” Everett said, just to keep up.
Board Chairman Scott Belt said the board would make a decision on the purchase June 27. The Pottawattamie County Auditor’s Office has a portion of the purchase in its current budget, which ends June 30.