On Thursday, November 1, 2018, the public was invited to witness and participate in the General Election Public Accuracy Testing of Election Equipment.
Sherida Newgard, who serves as the Absentee Voter Clerk for Fillmore County, Minn., demonstrated how the equipment worked as it processed ballots. She has worked with the count
A total of 18 test deck ballots from Bristol Township were processed on the DS200. As Newgard fed each ballot into the DS200, the machine quickly scanned and recorded each ballot tallying votes along the way. If a race did not have a candidate selected, it was noted. And, if a voter selected more candidates than eligible to be elected for a seat, that vote was discarded from the machine. However, all other eligible votes were counted. At the end of the process, Newgard asked me if I would assist with the auditing process. She printed off a report from the machine that showed all votes cast from the 18 ballots. All votes were cross-referenced with the pre-determined votes accounted for on the ballots that were processed. In the end, the audit checked out and the machine was in good working order.
This DS200 was a new machine. A total of only 25 ballots had ever been processed on that machine, including 18 of those ballots processed during the General Election Public Accuracy Testing event. All votes from the test deck of ballots did not count toward the election. Each DS200 ballot machine goes through the same accuracy testing process.
Carrie Huffman, Local Election Official for Fillmore County, Minn., was in and out of election training throughout the day, but was able to answer questions relating to the election equipment. “When we purchased the DS200s, the total cost was $114,160.00,” for 22 machines.
“We had gotten a grant from the State of Minnesota for a portion of the cost. That amount was $50,170.20 for the DS200s. The county had to match 50% of that amount for purchase plus pay for the extra. So the County paid $54,042.80,” according to Huffman.
In addition, Fillmore County invested in Poll pads, which allow for the judges at each polling precinct to look up the name of each registered voter when they check-in prior to voting on Election Day. And, for those who have not registered to vote, but live in the precinct, the Poll pads allow voters to register on the day of the election.
Huffman explained, “For the Poll pads, the total cost was $65,220. We purchased 45 of them.”
Fillmore County received a 25% matching grant for the Poll pads, which amounted to $18,629.32. The remaining cost of $46,590.68 was picked up by Fillmore County.
Out of 37 precincts (14 cities and 23 townships), a combined total of 15 cities and townships will be using the Poll pads: Arendahl Township, City of Chatfield, Chatfield Township, Fillmore Township, Forestville Township, City of Harmony, City of Lanesboro, City of Mabel, City of Peterson, City of Preston, City of Rushford, City of Rushford Village, City of Spring Valley, Spring Valley Township, and City of Wykoff.
According to Huffman, “In 2016, we had only two precincts that were mail ballot precincts. Those were Preble Township and the City of Whalan.” There were 1,096 absentee ballots, with 139 of those being mail ballots.
Mail ballots have been on the rise. As of November 1, 2018, for the November 6, 2018, election, Huffman indicated that 1,231 ballots had been accepted, with 576 of those being mail-in ballots. The mail ballot precincts have increased from two to eight since 2016: Bloomfield Township, City of Canton, Canton Township, City of Fountain, Fountain Township, Newburg Township, Preble Township, and City of Whalan.
In 2016, there were 12,223 registered voters. Newgard said that based on voter turnout thus far, there is anticipation that the 2018 election turnout out will rival 2016.
The Election Official staff at the Fillmore County government center usually expects to work until about 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. Newgard noted that she worked until 4 a.m. for one election.
The staff at the Fillmore County Journal encourages readers to get out and vote on or before November 6, 2018. The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day.