Changing the way we vote

New machines will eliminate paper ballots, traditional polling places

— Routt County is one step closer to changing the way people vote.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase 34 new voting machines from HART Intercivic.

Purchasing the new mach--ines will enable the county to meet pending voting system requirements established by state and federal laws. The machines are electronic and will replace the county's paper ballot system.

The machines will be touch-screen and will allow voters who mismarked their ballots a second chance to vote. The county also will be required to have some machines that allow people with disabilities to vote without assistance, which is not available now.

Eliminating paper ballots also means the county can do away with its precinct voting system, in which residents must vote at locations determined by their home addresses.

Beginning with the August primaries, Routt County voters should be able to vote at any of eight "voting centers" across the county. Residents will be able to vote at any center.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland estimates that the machines will cost between $200,000 and $225,000. The cost includes the voting machines, project management services and staff and poll worker training.

"I'm really grateful they included that in their quote," Weinland said about the poll worker training.

The cost of the machines will be offset by $140,750 in federal funds. The funds will be distributed to the county by the Secretary of State's Office to help counties pay for changes required by the national Help America Vote Act.

HART Intercivic is the only voting machine vendor that has received federal and state certification to handle the volume required for Routt County. The electronic voting machines are durable and user-friendly, and the company has a history of superior customer service, Weinland said. HART Intercivic also provides voter education and outreach, something Weinland has said is important.

One of the next steps to purchase the machines is the drafting of a contract that would require approval by the county and HART Intercivic.

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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