Chief Deputy Auditor/Treasurer Kris Ray explained that while Nobles County has been using voting machines since 2006, state law requires voting machines to be tested before each election.
County Auditor/Treasurer Joyce Jacobs added that to test the machines, pre-marked ballots are scanned. The machine must have 100 percent accuracy in its counting.
During the test, Jacobs, Ray and Deputy Auditor/Treasurer Lori Winter ran ballots that were undermarked (no bubble filled in), overmarked (both response bubbles filled in), unreadable (marks in the margins), “yes” votes and “no” votes. The machine needed to accurately read each response.
Nobles County voting machines passed the test with a perfect reading at Friday’s meeting.
Ray said that a few times, a vote has been close enough to require a recount. When that happens, votes are counted by hand instead of using machines.
The count can be different by hand because human beings account for “voter intent,” whereas a machine can only read exactly what is marked. For example, if a bubble is only half-filled, the voting machine will read the ballot as “undermarked.” But a person can look at that same ballot and determine that the voter intended to vote for the half-filled bubble’s response.
If, during a hand recount, Jacobs explained, there is any question of voter intent, a bipartisan team discusses it and comes to a consensus.
The test stressed the importance of voters following instructions exactly when filling in their ballots.