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Ballot-counting goes automatic in Washington County

Washington County voters will have a new system this election season.

The county budgeted for new machines last year to replace aging equipment that requires election judges to feed ballots manually.

Election supervisor Carol Peterson said the county currently feeds an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 absentee ballots, a number that is expected to grow this year.

New features of the machines include a larger screen, digital counting, memory sticks versus batteries and an auto-feed tray that allows ballots to be counted automatically.

Washington County will purchase the new election software and vote counting equipment for $732,900.

The Washington Board of Commissioners approved the measure Tuesday, March 18.

Washington County has worked with both Hennepin and Dakota counties to request information from vendors and choose an appropriate system, Peterson said.

Both Hennepin and Anoka counties have recently purchased the same election equipment.

Ballot counters will be purchased for all precincts within the county as well as a central count machine to process absentee ballots, and software for producing ballots and reporting results.

Funding for the purchase of the election equipment comes from a combination of federal Help America Vote Act grant funds and county property tax funds.