New voting machines being 'put through the paces' | Prairie Public Broadcasting

New voting machines being 'put through the paces'

Jun 26, 2019

New voting machines for North Dakota are set up in a room at the Capitol.

"We're putting them through the paces, said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. "We want to make sure they can handle our open primary, and any election we would throw at it."

It is the Secretary of State's job to certify the new devices, and de-certify the devices that are no longer used.

Silrum said the contract to finalize the purchase of the new devices will likely be finished by the end of the week, and the plan is to have all the devices in Bismarck by the end of July. After that, county election officials will be trained on them.

Will voters see much of a difference?

"Hardly anything at all," Silrum said. "The machines will look similar to what you've seen in the past. They're just going to be faster, and provide more capabilities."

Silrum said one of those capabilities has to do with how the ballot is marked. He said the older machines only checked to see if the ovals on the paper ballots were properly filled in.

"Now, the machines will take a scanned image of both sides of the ballot," Silrum said. "That helps with the transparency of the process."

The older devices were purchased in the early 2000s, from "Help America Vote" grant monies – and they were wearing out.

"We were able to nurse our machines through the 2018 elections," Silrum said. "This came at the right time -- probably a little bit past the right time."

The 2019 Legislature authorized the spending for the machines.

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