Clay, Platte counties using new scanners to process ballots in general election

platte county scanner.png
Posted at 5:55 AM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 08:28:46-05

LIBERTY, Mo. — Election board directors in Clay and Platte counties are taking proactive steps to make sure they can tabulate ballots as quickly as possible on Election Day.

To speed up the process, both election boards will be using devices called central scanners. The scanners take electronic copies of multiple completed ballots per second. A separate tabulating computer determines the results of the races based on those electronic copies.

Both boards have received about three times the amount of mail-in ballot requests compared to the 2016 presidential election.

Platte County Election Board Democratic Director Chris Hershey said officials would normally scan mail-in ballots through the same scanners voters use when voting in person. The problem is, it takes several seconds for those scanners to process one ballot. With thousands of mail-in ballots to scan Tuesday, a central scanner speeds up the process.

“I’d say it [the new central scanner] probably scans about eight times faster than the poll-site scanners,” Hershey explained .”So that’s going to allow us to process all the ballots we receive by mail in this election a lot faster than we would otherwise with the intent of having results ready election night as opposed to days or weeks later like some places have talked about.”

Clay County Election Board Democratic Director Tiffany Francis said her board is renting two central scanners to use this election. The board used similar scanners during a recount after August’s primary election and saw the benefit.

“We’ve always, in Clay County, prided ourselves on getting the results out early. Usually, we’re one of the earlier ones in the state to have results up. So it was important to us to be able to continue to meet that standard,” Francis explained.

Clay County is using grant money to pay the roughly $6,900 required to rent two scanners along with the corresponding hardware and software.

Francis said she’ll approach the board about buying the scanners at December’s meeting.

Platte County took advantage of funding made available from the CARES Act to purchase one central scanner and the corresponding software for $7,850. Hershey said the election board first used the scanner in this year’s primary election.