- Will speed up voting at polls, provide back-ups of ballots
- Will be used beginning with June 2015 primary
- Previous machines have reached end-of-life; new machines compliant with VA law
Beginning with the June 2015 Democratic primary, Arlington County will use new digital scanner voting machines. The new system uses a paper ballot, which is digitally scanned into the ballot box. Arlington’s Electoral Board approved the move at its meeting last night.
“This is a win-win for voters,” said Linda Lindberg, Arlington County General Registrar. “These state-of-the-art machines will speed up voting at the polls, as well as provide secure back-ups of all ballots.”
Voters can check out the new system at the May 9 Voting Machine Open House, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Ground Floor Lobby. View details, directions, and transportation options.
- 9-11 a.m.: Accessibility Features in Depth. See what the new machines offer for voters with disabilities or special needs
- 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Open for everyone
The new system has two primary advantages:
- When polls are very busy, more voters can mark ballots at any given time, limited only to how many marking stations can fit in a polling place. With the old machines, only a limited number could be deployed to each polling place. Any individual voter could tie up a machine if s/he took a long time.
- The paper-based system provides a durable record of all votes cast. If, for example, a polling place loses electricity, voting can continue with paper without interruption. The ballots can be inserted into the scanner later by pollworkers, or in the worst-case scenario, they can be counted by hand. The durable record includes both a digital image of the ballot, as well as the paper ballot itself.
Arlington’s evaluation and procurement process to replace its aging electronic voting machines has been underway for a number of months. The process is being expedited, in response to the Commonwealth’s Board of Elections, which recently stated its intention to de-certify electronic voting machines.
Arlington had previously used the digital scanners to supplement its electronic machines during the November 2012 Presidential election.
How it works
All voters will be given a paper ballot to mark their selections. When complete, voters insert the ballot into a digital scanner, which not only reads the ballot marking, but also saves a digital image of the ballot, as well as the paper ballot itself. At the close of polls, election officers run a tally of all votes cast on the scanner.
The new system also enables those with special needs to vote without assistance, should they so choose. Each polling place will have a ballot marking station that will allow either touch-screen or audio selection. Once the voter completes all selections, the station produces a paper ballot, which is then inserted in the scanner to be tallied along with all other voted ballots.
“Though it may seem like we are going back to paper, it’s more like going ‘back to the future,’ said Ms. Lindberg. “This is a state-of-the-art system, and only digital scanners are allowed by Virginia law.”
Since 2007, Virginia law prohibits localities from purchasing electronic voting machines. Localities, including Arlington, which already own such machines may continue to use them, but when the machines are ready for replacement, the new system must be paper-based. Arlington is now at that point.