State grant will equip precincts with vote-counting machines

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 28, 2002

Freeborn County received $35,657.50 from the state to improve equipment for the November election. The grant, accompanied with 100 percent matching by the county, will be used to purchase 22 new counters that will enable most vote counting to be done place at the polling places.

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer visited the county Thursday to present the big check. &uot;In past state primaries, 22 percent of the votes are wasted,&uot; she said. &uot;This equipment stops that.&uot;

She said that fierce election matchups in Minnesota contain a potential for recounts, and emphasized that should not need to happen.

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According to County Auditor/Treasurer Dennis Distad, only seven precincts out of 40 had automated counters in the last election. The ballots from the rest of precincts were brought to a central location to go through a counter there.

Distad, who is also the chief election official in the county, said the county will place 17 more precinct counters, five of which would be used jointly with another precinct. That ends up giving 29 precincts the local-counting capability.

The decentralization will not only shorten the time for counting and but also enable election officials to find out a problem on a ballot promptly, and would make it possible for the voter to fix it.

Kiffmeyer pointed out the new system would significantly reduce wasted votes. &uot;It will bring back the control of ballots to voters,&uot; she said. Also, the quicker election results in the decentralized system would increase voters’ accountability and curb the county’s administrative expenditures, she said.