New voting equipment should speed up results

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 9, 2017

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Residents will see a new voting system in place when they head to the polls this November after City Council approved the use of a grant and additional money to purchase a new voting system.

Equipment from Election Systems and Software will be paid almost entirely for through the Help America Vote Act, said City Clerk Mary Kotowski. St. Clair Shores is getting $168,480 in grant money, with no matching funds needed, to pay for the city’s ballot tabulators and accessible ballot marking devices. Since Kotowski had expected to have to pay matching funds and had included them in the budget, the city had money available to purchase backup tabulators and high-speed tabulators for the absentee voter board.

“It’s going to be easier for our voters, easier for our election inspectors,” Kotowski said. 

The city has had a voting system from the same company since 2002, when it cost $300,000. She said the city has run 49 successful elections since then with no issues. 

The new system, Kotowski said, is a digital printing system that reformats the ballot style. That means that, potentially, there could be up to four columns of choices on each side of the ballot. 

The new tabulators only take two seconds to count a vote, she said, and the high-speed tabulator for the absentee ballots runs at a rate of 50 ballots per minute.

“For the (absentee voters), this is extremely important,” City Manager Mike Smith said. “Mary (Kotowski) worked very hard.”

“I have 10 people standing at those tabulators for eight, nine, 10 hours. It’s still a really long day, so this is much better technology,” Kotowski explained. 

The new system has some important security features, Kotowski explained. Each ballot is digitally image scanned and will be sent to the county on a secured encrypted network. With paper ballots, there is yet another backup.

She said the new equipment will be delivered after the August primary election so it is ready for November. Workers will be trained on the new equipment, and Kotowski plans to work with SCS-TV to post informational videos for residents about the new equipment as well.

“The system picked in Macomb County, I believe, is the easiest for voters, as well as for election workers on Election Day,” she said.