Eight Idaho counties will use new balloting systems on Tuesday, including Idaho’s most populous county.
Elections offices in Ada, Blaine, Cassia, Latah, Lemhi, Madison and Teton counties are using brand new bubble (think SAT) or “arrow” ballots and optical scan vote counters in Tuesday’s Primary Election. Kootenai County has always used optical scan ballots but will be using new counters on Tuesday. And Canyon County will use punch cards on Tuesday, but is moving to optical scan for the General Election in November.
Ada County Elections Supervisor Jo Spencer said that the new machines count much slower than the old punch card counters, but the county has twice as many machines.
“We’ll start counting at 8 o’clock when the polls close and count until we’re finished,” Spencer said.
Punch card ballots zipped through the counting machines at about 1,000 cards a minute. The new optical scan counts about 300 of the larger ballots a minute, but the county has six counters, double the number of punch card counters they had in previous elections.
The counties are phasing out punch cards because the machines are not being serviced any more and are being phased out across the country.
While returns won’t come in any faster with the new machines – and voting could be somewhat slower at polling places – the Secretary of State’s office is more concerned that the returns be accurate, says Idaho Help America Vote Act coordinator Jim Mairs.
Mairs added that every polling place in the state will have a “ballot marking device” for seeing impaired voters or those uncomfortable holding a pen. The ballot marking machines utilize a touch screen to physically mark a ballot – the devices do not record your vote.
The remainder of Idaho’s 44 counties still use paper ballots or punch card systems.