Linn County officials hope to test high-speed ballot scanner for 2016

Early voters may cast 50 percent of votes in next presidential election

Rick Smith
Published: March 11 2014 | 7:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:26 am in

Forty percent of Linn County voters cast their ballots early in the 2012 presidential election, and the expectation is 50 percent will in 2016.

Thatís a lot of absentees ballots ó 48,266 in 2012 ó to feed into scanning machines on Election Day.

As a result, Linn County Auditor Joel Millerís office plans to purchase a special high-speed scanning machine that can much more quickly scan absentee ballots with fewer Election Day workers needed to handle the paperwork.

To do the job in 2012, Miller said his department used 15 standard ballot scanners, which he said require ballots to be slowly inserted or the ballots are rejected. The high-speed scanner can do all the work more quickly, he said.

"Itís getting to the point where itís becoming very hard to manage that many people on that many machines," Miller said. "One machine will mean fewer people handling ballots and will provide more control and better management."

Miller and Tim Box, his deputy for elections, are asking the Linn County Board of Supervisors to approve the rental of a high-speed scanner for this yearís primary and general elections so they can test how it works. Box said there are two products, one that costs about $100,000 to purchase and one that costs about a quarter of that amount.

Miller said he and Box want to test out the less-expensive scanner, but he said he wanted to delay any purchase to see what other options might become available in a fast-changing industry.

The county also is preparing to replace all of its six-year-old precinct voting machines in two to three years.

The countyís proposed new capital improvement budget put the replacement cost at $2.4 million spread over the budget years of 2016 and 2017.

Supervisor Lu Barron said the county needed to look for some grant support for the future purchase.

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