Hennepin County introduces DS200, the new ballot counter
by Gina Purcell
Sun POST Newspapers
With Golden Valley City Council elections just around the corner it is time for residents to begin preparing for a trip to the polls.
This year, there will be something a bit different in store. Hennepin County is introducing the DS200, a new vote scanner and counter.
The county spent nearly $4 million on the project, which included not only the scanners but a software upgrade and four larger machines used by the county to count absentee ballots.
Roughly $1 million of the cost came from a grant the county received from the state, the remaining funds were taken from the county’s operational budget.
The county purchased approximately 550 machines. Each precinct within the county is required to have one machine. There are 400 precincts in Hennepin County but additional machines were purchased as backups.
Each machine costs roughly $6,600, which includes the scanner, ballot box and modem.
The DS200 will be an upgrade from the previous M100 that was first introduced in 1999 – both made by Election Systems and Software.
“(The M100) counted ballots properly but it was time to be replaced,” said Sue Virnig, finance director of Golden Valley. “We had issues with jamming.”
According to Ginny Gelms, acting elections manager for Hennepin County, it was time to upgrade.
“We were seeing some wear on the machines,” she said.
Gelms says the biggest difference voters will notice is the larger touch screen display. The new machines will capture a digital image of the ballot as it is put through the machine.
If the machine notices the voter has chosen too many or too few selections in any one category, it will prompt the voter to submit or omit the ballot. If the voter has made an error and wishes to correct it, they must trash the original ballot and receive a new one.
Gelms says the system will capture an image of each ballot entered; however, it may not save the image.
The machine will save the image if there is a write-in for one of the votes. The county can then go back to the images to count those votes.
“It enables us to use better security so we don’t have to handle (ballots) after they’ve been counted,” Gelms said. “And it makes it more efficient to count write-in votes.”
This is the first year Hennepin County will be using the new machines; however, November’s election will not be the first time it is used. The machines were used in August for primary elections in St. Louis Park, Minnetonka and Bloomington.
According to Gelms the process went smoothly with no issues.
Anoka County will also be utilizing the DS200 machines for the first time this fall. The machines have also been used in New York City for the past year and in several other areas around the nation.
Golden Valley consists of eight precincts but has 11 machines for its upcoming election.
A demonstration unit is available at city hall for those interested in viewing the new ballot-counting machine. Virnig says the screen itself is more user-friendly telling voters that their vote has been counted.
“It will be much more intuitive for judges,” she said.
Virnig and city staff are not anticipating any issues with the new machines and look forward to working with the new technology.
Contact Gina Purcell at [email protected]