Milwaukee Uses Different Voting Machines for Early Voting
Use of touchscreens instead of paper ballots intended to improve accessibility, avoid need for 327 unique ballots.
Voters electing to cast their ballot early at the Milwaukee City Hall complex will encounter a different voting machine than what voters will find on election day.
Since the fall 2018 election, the Milwaukee Election Commission has used touchscreen voting machines for early voting that print a final, filled out ballot versus paper ballots.
Instead of drawing lines to select candidates on a long, paper ballot, the ExpressVote machine has a touch screen interface that shows only a single race at a time. After making selections in each race a final screen presents a list of selected candidates. Voters then use the machine to print a ballot with barcodes and a human-readable list of selected candidates that is submitted to poll workers for election day tabulation.
“No inventory of pre-printed ballots is necessary. The equipment also includes accessibility provisions that allow a person with a disability an easier experience in marking their ballot,” said election commission executive director Neil Albrecht.
The city purchased 25 machines in 2018 at a price of approximately $3,200 each after learning of their successful early implementation in Madison and West Allis, Albrecht said. The machines have been certified for use by both the federal Election Assistance Commission and Wisconsin Elections Commission. They’re manufactured by Omaha-based Election Systems & Software, which also sells other election equipment used by the city.
For the likely high-turnout fall Presidential election the city plans to have eight early voting sites. Albrecht said more machines will be acquired so they can be used at each site.
But there are no plans to replace the paper ballot process. “Eventually, they will replace the AutoMark, the accessible voting equipment used at polling places. They will not replace paper ballots or the DS200 tabulators,” said Albrecht.
How is accuracy ensured? “Like all other voting equipment, the City of Milwaukee does a pre-test of the equipment once election coding is complete to verify accuracy prior to each election,” said Albrecht. Ballots are not electronically submitted by the new machines. The printed ExpressVote ballots are scanned alongside the traditional paper ballots, ensuring an audit trail in the event of a recount.
Early voting for the Spring Primary ends Friday, February 14th. The election is Tuesday, February 18th.
Specific early voting dates have not been announced for the Spring Election and Presidential Primary on Tuesday, April 7th.
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