Voting Machines Purchased for O'Brien County
October 4, 2018
O'Brien County voting precincts gained new machines for voting this year. Ten "Freedom Vote Tablets", abbreviated as FVT systems, were purchased for $2,680 a piece. These machines allow for voters to receive a scan card that is scanned into the system. Once scanned, the voter can then choose candidates for any position that is running for governmental office on a touchscreen tablet device that brings up the voter's ballot. The system won't allow for more positions to be chosen than the voter is allowed on a normal paper ballot. The system also can accept a write-in candidate just like a normal ballot. The FVT systems allow individuals who are illiterate, blind, or hearing impaired to vote by using color coordinated organizational tools that also explain the background and role of the candidate that the voter wants information on. According to O'Brien County Auditor, Barb Rowher, one of the goals for these machines is to coordinate voting for those who are voting absentee. Rowher explains, "What we want to do is see if we can get the voters that come in to vote absentee to use this also. Our hope is going forward that maybe we won't have to have as many ballot printed." This will help save costs in terms of ballot printing costs. Once the touchscreen ballot is completed on the FVT system and the voter has completed the digital ballot, it is then printed out and taken to the tabulating equipment. Once the ballot that was formed through the FVT system is printed and the ballot goes through the tabulating machine, that voter's vote has then been cast.
Along with the "Freedom Vote Tablets", there was also the purchase of one mini OVCS Central Scan system. This piece of equipment is the more expensive piece of machinery, coming in at a cost of $7,850 per unit. County Auditor Barb Rowher explained, "With every election it seems that the absentee category is getting larger and what we've done in the past is that we used a regular voting machine and hand fed them one by one." Previously, the absentee board has hand fed the ballots one by one. This is a time-consuming and tedious process. The mini OVCS system can scan up to 2,100 ballots per hour. The system also allows for votes to be tabulated in batches of 25. The batch voting system allows for the count to be calculated much faster because if the count is off, the machine is programmed to cancel a prior batch in order for that batch to be tabulated again. If a mistake is made, or the equipment jams, the new machine can recount the previous ballot batch and then continue the process of casting vote batches. Auditor Barb Rowher explained that previously, if the tabulating machine jammed, the entire voting process would have to start over, as was the case in the 2016 Presidential election process.
The programming and votes are stored onto a thumb drive once cast. The voting equipment also has a built-in hard drive that allows for everything tabulated to be stored as a backup. The thumb drives from every voting machine in each precinct are then plugged into one computer during the final moments of the election night to be stored and counted. This process allows for voting to be secure and safe as it does not allow for any vote to reach the Internet where it would be vulnerable to interference.