Election results may become more secure and local voters may soon get results sooner if Dakota County communities invest in a new, countywide electronic voting system.
Cindy Muller, Farmington administrative assistant, presented the county proposal during the Monday, April 2, City Council meeting.
While Farmington tabled discussion, Rosemount City Council approved that community's participation at its meeting Tuesday night. That vote was part of the consent agenda.
Dakota County wants Farmington and Rosemount to be part of a 12-city agreement to share in purchasing electronic poll books or ePollbooks.
"This equipment is similar to an iPad and will replace the paper rosters that voters sign at the polling locations in order to vote," Muller said.
According to Rosemount city staff, the advantages of electronic pollbooks include:
• Quicker check-in process.
• Easier redirection for people come to the wrong precinct. For example, election judges can look up voters from the across the county or state
• Faster, more accurate same-day registration
• Ability to scan a driver's license, eliminating data-entry errors.
• Alerts judges if a voter already voted absentee
"We can reduce the number of election judges needed in each precinct and the new e-books will also help us comply with the new law that requires us to hide voters' notations on the roster," Farmington's Muller said. "We will have improved accuracy with voter names and voter accounts, and improved accuracy with absentee, improved privacy for registered voters because the voters do not see the roster books with the other names."
Plus, election judges would not need to spend time counting signatures at the end of the night.
The ePollbooks could be in use by the August primary.
Hennepin County has used an electronic system in a limited way for years. Several counties that have conducted trials during the last few election cycles, and Burnsville successfully used it in the 2014 election.
"There are multiple security levels - the iPad requires a pin code and the security ware requires a username and password to access and it requires an administrative password to alter anything," Muller said.
Dakota County will manage the maintenance and hotspots with a mobile device management that will not allow system updates and will be disabled during non-election times.
The county received a grant for $260,121.98 toward purchasing the equipment. The county and cities would split in remaining costs 50/50.
Rosemount already has $15,000 in the budget for the project.
Farmington's total purchase for 28 devices wuld $10,885.16. This amount would be paid in three installments.
Farmington Council member Robyn Craig said she did not feel comfortable paying $4,700 annually for the license and maintenance fees because of the time the city would not using the devices.
Craig asked for a breakdown of the $4, annual fee. Muller will find out details and report back at the April 16 council meeting.
Council member Katie Bernhjelm asked about potential cost savings.
Muller said there will be fewer hiring of election judges, so that will be a cost savings.
Council member Terry Donnelly said he had a few security questions, but thinks the maintenance and license feels most likely include legal fees. Donnelly added he thinks the city should approve the agreement since this is the trend and it is good the equipment will speed up election results.