Carson City’s voting equipment is going back to the future.
The Clerk-Recorders Office is holding an open house on Thursday to unveil the new gear and show voters how to use it.
“The simplicity of this is unbelievable,” said Sue Merriwether, clerk-recorder, last week after the second day training staff.
“And it’s still familiar,” added Aubrey Rowlatt, chief deputy clerk.
The new system features electronic kiosks with touchscreens where voters make their selections, similar to the system it replaced.
Voters first sign in via an electronic poll book, as they have since 2012, but now an attached printer will print out a paper ballot. Voters take their ballot to a machine with a privacy screen, insert the ballot into a slot, and when prompted make selections via the touchscreen.
When the voter is done, the paper ballot is spit back out with each vote printed on it so it can be checked for accuracy. A voter then inserts the paper into a scanner — a ballot box — where it’s read and dropped inside the box. A memory stick locked inside the scanner records all the votes.
At the end of voting, the paper ballots and memory sticks are removed by the clerk-recorders staff and the votes entered into a database on an isolated desktop PC.
All of the equipment — touchscreens, ballot boxes, desktop PC — is freestanding and none of it’s connected to the Internet.
The voting machines are all equipped for disabled voters, who in the past had to use specific machines. Each can be used with headphones to hear selections read aloud and a Braille keypad attached at the side. Any voter can zoom in on the screen to increase the size of the lettering or switch the screen contrast for easier viewing.
The new equipment, made by Election Systems & Software and costing roughly $397,000, was purchased through the clerk-recorders’ capital improvement budget and $231,388 from the state.
In 2017, the Nevada Legislature set aside $8 million to provide half the cost of new voting equipment throughout the state.
During the open house, there will be 10 or so voting machines and one ballot box, and visitors will be able to try them out by voting in a short, mock election. Election staff as well as Margaret DosSantos, account manager and trainer with the equipment maker, will be on hand to help.
During early voting for the 2018 election, there will be 25 kiosks set up in the hallway at the clerk-recorders office with one ballot box. On election day, there will be about 75 voting machines, mostly tabletop versions, and five ballot boxes at the Carson City Community Center.
In the past, the votes had to be read off 132 voting machines, said Merriwether.
Now, memory sticks and paper ballots will be removed from five ballot boxes, speeding up the process significantly.
“I’m ready,” said Merriwether. “It is so easy to set up and use I could do an election tomorrow.”