Residents Asked to Test New Election Tech in Blue Earth County, Minn.

The Minnesota legislature approved $7 million in statewide election technology upgrades last year, some of which went toward tablets that will streamline the voting process.

by Trey Mewes, The Free Press / August 6, 2018
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(TNS) — MANKATO — Blue Earth County is on the way to upgrading how it conducts elections.

County officials are planning a public test next week of tablets meant to streaml ine voting at polls. the new system will help with voter check-in, registration and voter list checks. Dubbed poll pads, the new system will help with voter check-in, registration and voter list checks.

The new technology will drastically cut down on election work such as logging in new registrations. Taxpayer Services Director Michael Stalberger said the county had to process 6,000 new registrations after the 2016 election, a process that took weeks to enter data in by hand. That won't take nearly as long in the future, Stalberger said.

"We see a huge time savings there, but it’s also just going to be a great improvement for election day activities, too," he said.

The poll pads are one of a number of planned upgrades for Blue Earth County. County officials purchased enough tablets to cover every precinct in Mankato, as well as nearby Eagle Lake and Lake Crystal precincts, with grant money from the state.

The Minnesota Legislature approved $7 million in funding in 2017 to upgrade and replace election equipment across the state. Though Blue Earth County has used its grant funding to buy the poll pads, the Blue Earth County Board already has set aside funding to replace vote-counting machines at the county's 40 or so live precincts out of 54 total.

The county won't buy that equipment until next year, which means the county will have new equipment in place for 2020 elections.

In the meantime, residents are invited to test out poll pads at Blue Earth County's Election Office from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, during the state's absentee voting push before the Aug. 14 election. The election office also will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 11 to allow residents to cast an absentee ballot in person.

©2018 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.