Government & Politics

Seven things to know about JoCo’s new voting machines

How to use JoCo’s new voting machines

Johnson County is rolling out new voting machines for the Nov. 6 election, and Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker provides a demonstration of how they work.
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Johnson County is rolling out new voting machines for the Nov. 6 election, and Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker provides a demonstration of how they work.

Johnson County voters can start voting in person on Monday, Oct. 22. That could be the best way to avoid lines for what is expected to be a high turnout election on Nov. 6.

Here are seven things to know about the new machines that many residents will see for the first time, either when they vote in advance or on Election Day:

1. Voter turnout. Johnson County has a record number of registered voters, more than 416,000. And Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker predicts about 200,000 of those people will vote in the Nov. 6 election. The county saw about 120,000 voters during the August primary, when 1,100 of the new machines were first used. The county will roll out all 2,100 machines for this election.

“There will be a learning curve,” Metsker said this month, as he demonstrated what voters will experience. He said the machines are fast, but it may take awhile for voters to get used to the new touchscreen system. The election office plans to have 2,000 workers on hand to assist voters with any questions about the new Election Systems & Software EVS 6.0.2.0 system.

“The machines are not slow. But the voters may be,” Metsker said. “It’s the humans that are trying to figure it out.”

2. Advanced voting. People can vote in advance by mail, by requesting a paper ballot. But they can also vote in advance at six polling locations: the Johnson County Election office, 2101 East Kansas City Road, Olathe; Hilltop Campus-Blue Valley, 7700 W. 143rd St., Overland Park; Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park; Johnson County Northeast Offices, 6000 Lamar, Mission; Johnson County Sunset Office Building, 11811 South Sunset Drive, Olathe; and Okun Fieldhouse, 20200 Johnson Drive, Shawnee. Hours of operation are at jocoelections.org.

3. Getting started. Voters must check in and show photo ID, and they will get a ticket with a bar code. The voting machine has an infrared scanner that will read the bar code and automatically load the proper precinct ballot for that voter. The machine has a privacy shield.

4. Blank paper ballot. Voters will each have a blank paper ballot that feeds into the machine. They make their candidate selections from the touch screen, and the selections are recorded on that paper ballot. Voters can type in a write-in candidate on the touch screen and can also skip certain races if they don’t want to make a selection.

5. Revisions allowed. A summary page on the screen will show all the voter’s selections. If there are any mistakes, the voter can go back and redo a selection.

6. Voter verification. The voter then prints a copy of the ballot selections and can review those on the paper ballot. If there’s a problem, a poll worker can tear up that ballot and give the voter a new blank ballot for a do-over. If all the selections are correct, the paper ballot goes back into the machine.

7. Casting the ballot. At that point, the ballot has been marked but still has not been cast. The screen will prompt the voter to click a button to actually cast the votes, which are then tabulated electronically. The physical paper ballot drops into a secure container on the machine. Those boxes can hold about 300 ballots, but each machine is expected to have only about 150 voters on Election Day. The paper ballots are available in the event of a recount or audit. Some of those paper ballots jammed during the August primary, but Metsker said that problem has been solved.

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