By Becky Riedl, Yellowstone County Democrats Chair
Before every election, county election offices are required to test the vote-counting machines; these tests are open to the public. As the only person to show up and observe the test at 8 am this morning, I was able to ask lots of questions and get a full understanding of how the voting machines work and how the ballots are sorted and stored.
Not only do the machines count the votes, but also make an electronic copy of each ballot, and print out a record of the tallies. The machines have three trays. One tray for ballots that have overvotes, a tray for rejected ballots and the last tray is for the ballots that are counted with no issues. Ballots can be rejected for many reasons; as an example, a felt pen or marker bleeds through the paper, or a ballot may have damage, or a voter made a mistake and scribble or crossed off a vote, and filled in a different oval.
In addition to testing the voting machines, I was given a demonstration of Express Voting machines. Express Voting machines are intended for use by voters with disabilities that may have difficulties filling in a paper ballot. The express voting machine then prints out a ballot that can be put through the counting machine.
I was impressed with how the whole election operation works and the integrity of the 100 or so volunteers that donate their time to ensure Yellowstone County has free and fair elections.