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2018 Election: County purchases e-poll books

Hubbard County received a state grant to purchase electronic poll pads, similar to the one shown here.

Hubbard County applied for and received a Minnesota Voting Equipment Election Grant.

The award totals $70,604.

The 2017 state Legislature authorized $7 million in grant funding available to counties, cities, towns and school districts to assist with the purchase of voting equipment.

The Legislature authorized use of these funds to offset up to 50 percent of optical scan precinct counters, optical scan central counters or assisted voting devices and up to 75 percent of electronic rosters.

County Auditor/Treasurer Kay Rave met with the county board Tuesday.

"Now I'm spending the money," she said. "I'm making darn sure we spend it all because otherwise we have to have it returned by August of 2019 and I don't want to have to through the accounting later."

She sought board approval to purchase 24 electronic poll books from KNOWiNK, LLC of St. Louis, Mo. Of the $37,170 cost, $27,591 will be covered by the grant. The remainder is the county's match.

E-poll books allow election judges to verify voters using iPads instead of bulky paper books.

During Laporte School Board's special election last November, Rave conducted a pilot project with the technology. Seventy-one voters registered via e-poll pads.

Rave anticipates the new equipment will increase accuracy, help detect challenged voters and identify whether an address needs to be updated or someone is eligible to vote.

"One of the reasons we don't want to outfit the whole county is because we're starting to pick up mail ballot precincts," Rave noted. "Why outfit the whole county when we may not need them? Since the 2016 election, we've already picked up three mail-ballot precincts and we may, within a week, pick up another one which would put us up to 1,600 voters by mail for this year."

Rave also requested the purchase of 18 optical ballot scanners, called DS200s, from Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb. The cost is $90,345.

According to the company, the DS200 is a voter-activated paper ballot counter and vote tabulator. It possesses a 12-inch LCD touch screen, which is used to provide voters with feedback, such as an overvote warning. When polls close, the DS200 prints out the voter logs so election officials can have a paper tally.

The DS200 will replace older equipment, M100s.

"We will still have some of the smaller precincts outfitted with the M100, but we don't have the funding right now to replace everything. In addition, if in the next couple of years they go mail ballot, we won't need to replace them," Rave explained.

The board approved all of the purchases.