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County to seek state funding to upgrade voting equipment

It's time for counties across Minnesota, including Otter Tail County, to upgrade their voting equipment.

"The last upgrades, with state assistance, took place back in 2006," said County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein to county commissioners on Oct. 24.

To that end, Otter Tail County is applying for a state grant totaling $403,326. If received, the county would need to kick in an additional $258,831 as a matching amount.

The 2017 Minnesota State Legislature created a Voting Equipment Grant account totaling $7 million.

"Minnesota is one of 43 states with voting machines that were last replaced from 2004 to 2006," said Stein. "This equipment is near the end of its expected life, and replacement parts are hard to find."

Election equipment experts in Minnesota and in other states note that election technology has changed dramatically in the past decade. Replacement is needed, they add, in light of security risks and potential reliability flaws.

Bandy needed are replacements for outdated voting equipment such as tabulators, assistive voting devices and poll books.

"We have 91 precincts here in Otter Tail County, so seeking grant dollars to replace outdated voting equipment is warranted," said Stein to county commissioners.

Realistically, Stein says that getting the entire requested amount of $403,326 from the state Voting Equipment Grant account is unlikely. That's because many if not all of the other 86 counties in Minnesota will be also be submitting applications.

"I'm confident we'll receive a fair amount of grant money from the state," said Stein, "and it's noteworthy that county commissioners are willing to approved needed matching funds."

Creation of the Voting Equipment Grant account is a much-needed investment in Minnesota's election system, note State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and State Reps. Bud Nornes and Mary Franson who serve Otter Tail County in the state legislature.