2017-09-13 / News

County voters will use new equipment in November

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer demonstrates the new tabulating machines that will be used for the first time across the county in November. They were delivered to polling locations last week. 
Photos by Andrew Dietderich Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer demonstrates the new tabulating machines that will be used for the first time across the county in November. They were delivered to polling locations last week. Photos by Andrew Dietderich LAPEER — Lapeer County residents heading to the polls this November will be among the first in the area to use new election equipment that’s part of a $40-million statewide push to upgrade Michigan’s voting system.

Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer said new equipment was delivered to townships throughout the county last week. Those in charge of overseeing the machines and voting process, such as township clerks, will begin training Thursday (Sept. 14).

It’s the culmination of two years of work Spencer has put into the upgrades.

She said she’s glad that Lapeer County voters — and precinct workers — will get to use the new voting system starting in November, a full year before the state’s 2018 election that will include a gubernatorial race.


When voters enter ballots into the new tabulating machines, this is the view they will see. The new machines include a screen that shows if a ballot has been successfully entered. When voters enter ballots into the new tabulating machines, this is the view they will see. The new machines include a screen that shows if a ballot has been successfully entered. “We’re thrilled,” she said. “It will help next year when we do have a lot of stuff happening.”

Lapeer County’s new machines are part of a statewide effort to upgrade Michigan’s voting equipment in 2017-18.

The goal is to have all of Michigan’s voters using new equipment by the August 2018 statewide election.

In announcing the “Every Vote Counts” program, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said “next generation voting equipment” will be installed and used for at least the next decade.


New ADA-compliant tablets are designed to make it easier to see ballots that can be filled out on the touchscreen. 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich New ADA-compliant tablets are designed to make it easier to see ballots that can be filled out on the touchscreen. Photo by Andrew Dietderich The new equipment won’t cost Lapeer County voters anything extra (though the county will have to pay for maintenance of the equipment after five years).

That’s because statewide, new equipment is being bought with $30 million in federal Help America Vote Act money that Michigan’s Secretary of State has socked away during the last decade, along with $10 million approved by the Legislature with the support of Gov. Rick Snyder.

The tabulating machines (called ICP Tabulator and made by Dominion Voting Systems Inc.) will cost the state about $4,300 each, while the ADA-compliant voting devices cost about $2,900 each.

Forty-one tabulating machines have been bought for Lapeer County, while 25 of the ADA-compliant devices have been purchased. Old equipment was traded in for credit.

Several measures are set to be on ballots around the county, including a street and sidewalk improvement millage in the City of Lapeer, and school and fire protection millages in Imlay Township (see infobox for more).

Voters will notice differences when they head to polls and begin the process of voting.

The traditional privacy booths will still be used. However, votes will be cast on ballots by filling in small circles instead of connecting arrows. Spencer said the arrows have caused confusion for some voters.

Ballots will then be fed into a tabulator.

Spencer said a digital screen on the tabulating machine will alert precinct workers to a problem with a ballot. Voters also will be able to see the screen.

“Mostly it’s going to tell the voter that your ballot has been processed,” she said.

That’s opposed to the older machines being replaced that relied only on a beep or series of beeps to communicate.

That equipment — used as recent as the 2016 election — was rolled out in 2004-05

Through a bidding and vetting process, the state approved three vendors that county officials around the state could choose from: Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software, and Hart Intercivic Inc.

“All counties wanted to choose rather than take what the state said we had to have,” Spencer said. “Because when you look at the state’s 83 counties, they’re very diverse in terms of population, and needs, and so on.”

Spencer said she worked with clerks throughout Lapeer County to decide on the vendor the county would work with.

Dominion was chosen, she said, because the county has worked with the company previously (when it was called Election Source).

The ADA-compliant machines (called ICXBMD A-Accessible Devices) will allow people with disabilities to use a tablet-like electronic device to fill out a ballot on a screen.

The machines are easier for some to read, Spencer said. The machines also allow for an option to vote with the assistance of headphones.

Once a ballot is filled out on the ADAcompliant machine, the resulting ballot is printed using a standard printer and fed into the same tabulating machine used by those who don’t use the ADA-compliant device.

Spencer said those who want to use the ADAcompliant machines will not have to meet any special kind of criteria.

“In fact, a lot of the clerks are going to channel people here because it’s another voting station,” she said.

When polls close, she said, clerks will physically take smart cards from precincts to the Lapeer County Complex where Spencer will be able to quickly cull the information.

Spencer said it’s her hope that at some point in the future, each municipality will have a dedicated computer where clerks will be able to upload the information on the smart cards directly.

“But that’s an expensive add-on and I wanted us to do this in stages,” she said.

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