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St. Louis County Board Of Elections Gearing Up For Upgrades

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County's voting equipment is getting a much needed upgrade for the upcoming 2020 elections.

The St. Louis County Board of Elections is upgrading its voting equipment for the upcoming 2020 elections. The county has roughly 1,800 touch voting machines and 500 optical scan paper ballot tabulators that have had their fair share of wear and tear, and the software is now out of date.

Eric Fey, the Democratic director of elections for the St. Louis County Board, said the last time county voters had new voting equipment was in 2005.

“Although the equipment is 100% accurate, we have to replace components more often,” Fey said. “It’s very hard to get replacement parts. And then with the software, the programming of the ballot, the tabulation of the ballots is very labor intensive.”

Currently, the board of elections is holding public demonstrations with three contenders including Dominion, Hart InterCivic and the county’s current vendor Election Systems & Software.

The St. Louis County Board of Elections began the process to look for new equipment in January. Fey said the county’s board of elections are taking bids from vendors.

The first of three demonstrations was held Friday by Election Systems & Software — or ES&S — which was touting its new machine known as a Express Vote. It’s a hybrid system that uses a mix of paper ballots and touch screen technology. Blank thermal ballot cards are inserted into the Express Vote machine, and voters will be able to select from the choices on a touch screen.

Users will be able to go over their choices and then print it out and put their ballot into another machine known as the DS 200, which sorts and counts the ballots.

Regional Sales Manager Rob Wiebusch said their equipment makes the user experience easier, while prioritizing voter security. That’s mainly because it’s not connected to the internet.

“It’s not accessible to the outside world in anyway,” Wiebusch said. “Whether it’s a tabulator, a ballot marking device or in the tabulation room here at St. Louis County. What makes our system unique is on our precinct tabulator; there are four places, redundant places where the results can be compared and audited post election.”

One of the key functions of the equipment allows for accessibility, especially for those with a disability Wiebusch said.

Kansas City and Springfield already use ES&S’ equipment.

Two more demonstrations will be held with the other vendors. The next one will be held at the Board of Elections office on April 26 at 9 a.m. with Dominion. Next month, Hart InterCivic will also hold a demonstration on May 7 at the Board of Elections office at 9 a.m.

All attendees are required to RSVP at (314) 615-1854, (314) 615-1851 or email at StLouisCoVotes@stlouisco.com.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

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Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.