An approximately 100-thousand dollar grant is paving way for a number of voting equipment upgrades in Blue Earth County over the next two years.
The County Board accepted a grant with required matching dollars from the Minnesota Secretary of State that will cover over 65-percent of the total project cost, which is just over 152-thousand dollars.
The biggest investment will be in electronic rosters that will make the voting process more efficient and reduce the time election officials spend hand-entering data after an election.
Director of Taxpayer Services Michael Stalberger says the new units and software will be ready for the August primary election.
“To be implemented throughout the city of Mankato, throughout the City of Eagle Lake’s polling place and then also in Lake Crystal. Which will allow voters to sign-in electronically and that’s going to allow us to keep our information up-to-date and current throughout the election day.”
It all means that the need for election judges wont be as great and they can more easily handle a swarm of voters. The system will also help register new voters, taking away the old paper form and having residents use an I-pad to register electronically.
“Where we see it being extremely helpful for us is in some of our precincts and polling places nearest the campus where we have a lot of election day registrants. Those students just move a lot, that’s just part of their college careers and so that will save us an immense amount of time.”
The remaining money will go towards three pieces of tabulation scanners to improve the efficiency of handling mail-in ballots and absente ballots.
“We’re going to be able to move very large quantities of ballots through the counter in a much more quick pace,” said Stalberger. “Right now what we have to do is we have to do individual precincts one by one and switch out some data cards, do some paper work and data validation throughout that process. This new machine will allow us to do all of that work at one time.”
This year the system will undergo a trial use and the County will make a decision on a full replacement in 2019 and 2020.
Blue Earth County will kick-in about 52-thousand dollars towards the project with money from the capital budget.
Due to the current construction project at the Government Center, the Elections Office in 2018 is being relocated to Historic Court House at 204 South 5th Street in Mankato.