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Rep points out benefits of new voting system

KnowInk Regional Sales Representative Mike Freicks demonstrated a poll pad to Wadena County election judges, city clerks, commissioners, staff members and the general public Tuesday in the courthouse auditorium. A limited number of the units will be used for the first time this year in Wadena County. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

KnowInk Regional Sales Representative Mike Frericks gave Wadena County election judges, city clerks and the general public insights into the benefits of a new voting system Tuesday at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

In a meeting held in the downstairs auditorium of the Wadena County Courthouse, the features of the DS200 Precinct Scanner and Tabulator were pointed out along with demonstrations of poll pads which are expected to make registration faster and simpler.

A state grant is expected to pick up half of the $65,050 cost for the 12 DS200 ballot scanners the county board is considering purchasing for use in 2018.

The 16 electronic poll pads the county is planning to purchase are expected to cost around $22,400. The county will be charged for a quarter of the poll pad expense with the state picking up the other three-quarters.

Electronic poll pads will register a voter and provide them with a slip of paper with which they can obtain their ballots from election judges. After voting, county residents will be able to insert their ballots in the DS200 units without worrying about which side is up or down.

"One of the great things about this is that it is going to enhance the voter experience," County Auditor/Treasurer Judy Taves said. "It's going to be a change but I think it's going to increase efficiency."

Frericks told the group that 50 of Minnesota's 87 counties are currently on board with the new units.

If the county board elects to go with full integration of the new voting system it should be completely in place by 2020.

"The time to do it is this year," Taves said, pointing out the presidential elections are only two years away.

The county auditor's office will be testing the DS200 and poll pads at different sites in the county before they are voting in the primaries Aug. 7 and before general election voting held Nov. 6.

Taves said the board has not yet signed a final contract with KnowInk.

In other action:

• The board approved making a salary offer of $107,182.40 to Ryan Odden to handle both the county engineer and county coordinator positions. Odden will be expected to spend 60 percent of his working time on highway engineering work and the remaining 40 percent on county coordinator duties.

• The county board heard the 2017 feed lot report from Tyler Marthaler of the Wadena Soil and Water Conservation District.