Morrison County Government Center

Morrison County has received help for its plan to replace 15-year-old election equipment it uses.

The state of Minnesota recently issued the grants to counties and municipalities throughout the state, giving out $7 million to replace equipment purchased through federal funds.

Those funds came after the “hanging chads” controversy of the 2000 election, a press release from the Secretary of State’s office said.

Tuesday, the Morrison County Board of Commissioners approved the grant agreement and heard from Auditor-Treasurer Deb Lowe on how the county plans to spend the money.

The county had applied for the maximum grant amount of $236,152.50, but the state only approved the minimum, Lowe said.

The county has been saving money for new equipment on its own, and has $349,000 in the fund, not including the grant, Lowe said.

She said the money would be used to replace the county’s ballot counters, assisted voting equipment and also get poll pads for rosters.

Commissioner Randy Winscher asked what a poll pad is.

The poll pad is an electronic tablet that would contain the roster of all eligible voters in a precinct, Lowe said.

Instead of officials confirming information with giant booklets, they could now do that with the tablet.

“It makes the registration process and the sign-in process much quicker,” Lowe said.

Winscher said he assumed that the pads were not connected to the Internet though.

The tablets would not be connected to the Internet and instead would only be linked to the other poll pads at a precinct, Lowe said.

The state of Minnesota does not allow electronic signatures during the process, so people will still sign actual paper for now, Lowe said.

“We’re thinking eventually they (the state) will allow us to sign on the poll pad,” Lowe said.

These poll pads will not be purchased all at once, but will instead be part of a pilot program in the 2018 elections at Little Falls, where the precincts are large enough that the county can determine if they work well, Lowe said.

Winscher asked if the county would do away with the large, bulky assisted voting machines.

Lowe said they would be replacing them with machines that don’t weigh more than a laptop.

When the current machines were brought out for those who needed them, such as individuals with disabilities, between the time they were retrieved and when they were hauled out to the voter, the machine quit working, Lowe said.

“The fact is they’re (the new assisted voting machines) so much quicker that almost everybody could vote on them if they wanted to,” Lowe said.

Winscher said he liked the fact that the county would be doing the polling pads as a pilot program to see if they work, rather than buying them all at once.

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