Cole County tests voting machines ahead of August primary

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Cole County Clerk's office tested all 28 voting machines on Wednesday to make sure they count votes accurately.

Party delegates helped the office run 1,324 test ballots through the machines. Those ballots are pre-marked, so delegates made sure the count registered by each machine matched what was marked on the ballots.

Cole County Clerk Steve Korsmeyer said his office also seeks to make sure ballots go through the machines with no problems.

"Some people put them upside down, some people put them backwards," he said. "It doesn't matter, we have to make sure it records every direction."

For the August primary, Korsmeyer said there will be 28 polling places available and roughly 52,000 people are registered to vote.

He expects over 18,000 voters to take part in the election, a turnout of 35 percent, about half of what Korsmeyer projects for a presidential election.  

Korsmeyer said Cole County will have to spend between 60 and 70 thousand dollars for the upcoming primary.

He said that cost varies based on the number of voters registered for each election, but the need to update voting machines could also increase that cost.

Korsmeyer said each voting machines costs about $4,500.

"The lifespan of our machines is probably 10, 12 years. The technology changes a lot. We recently just got new equipment," he said. "We were fortunate to get new equipment, a couple of years ago, when I came in to office, so our machines have the most security updates, and are the most current machines that are available."

In addition to using the most updated voting machines, Korsmeyer said Cole County has other safety measures in place to guarantee the security and accuracy of the results of each election, which are stored on a "TM" or a memory stick.

"All the ballots, when they go in the machine, come back, the TM comes back to our office and that's where we do the count at," he said. "Every election we pick a precinct to hand-count to make sure that the machines tested properly. And then after the election, we'll bring all the machines back here and we'll go through the same test again, we'll run all the ballots through one more time to make sure the count is accurate."

Korsmeyer said the recount happens one day after the election, and the clerk’s office stores the results for at least a year.

He also said the 28 optical scan machines make the counting process go a lot faster.

"We'll have 25,000 ballots, so if you have to hand-count all of them that would take days," Korsmeyer said.

Although the voting machines need electricity to operate, if the power goes out election officials have a plan in place to keep the election going.

"Each machines has a bin in the back, an emergency bin. And they can open that emergency bin and the ballots get put in that bin," Korsmeyer said. "Once the electricity comes back on, and the machines is back up and running, then two election judges - a non-partisan team, a democrat-republican, would then feed those ballots through the machine."

On August 7, Korsmeyer said voters will need to bring a government-issued ID or another photo identification, like a student-ID, and then sign an online statement at the polling place.

However, he suggested people to bring government-issued cards to keep the lines shorter at polling places.

"The drive's license and your voter ID card we can scan, so it makes it a little faster process if they have one of those two things with them," Korsmeyer said. "If you bring any of the other forms, we can still accept them but we'd have to enter them manually, it just takes a little longer."

The Cole County Clerk's office has sample ballots available on its website for people to review candidates and issues on the August ballot.