As the 2020 election approaches, a big question is whether the election will be secure, as well as accessible to everyone.
Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen is traveling across the state to show the new technology that will be available at polling places for the 2020 election.
On Monday, Evnen showed the machine that Hall County previously purchased to count ballots, which is a DS850, a state-of-the-art ballot counting machine and that will also be purchased for other counties.
He said the state will take over the expense of repair, maintenance and licensing of the machine for its useful life.
The DS850 is not connected to the internet, making safe and secure from hacking.
Evnen said the machine is fast and efficient, and it can count a folded ballot, which means that there are no more worries about whether a mail-in ballot will cause issues.
Tracy Overstreet, Hall County election commissioner, demonstrated how the machine works.
Overstreet placed 100 ballots in the machine, representing a precinct.
All counted ballots went to the bottom bin, while any ballots that had not been properly filled in went to the top bin to be corrected and filtered through again.
The machine then prints out a report of the ballots counted.
Another issue the state has faced is how to make the elections more accessible to everyone.
Evnen also showed the new Express Vote machine, which will be in each polling place throughout the state.
He said the Express Vote is ADA accessible and will replace the Auto Mark machines previously used by voters with disabilities.
On these new machines, voters can select their choices on a screen, and after making their selections, a paper ballot will print out on thermal paper, eliminating ink cartridges.
There is a keypad on the machine that has Braille under the buttons, a place to plug in headphones for voters who need hearing assistance, a way to change font size and to change the screen to black and white for someone with vision issues such as macular degeneration.
Evnen said these machines only weigh 22 pounds, which is much lighter compared to the 78-pound Auto Mark machines.
Overstreet said they will be less daunting to those who work the polls, as they have lost poll workers in the past due to the weight and bulkiness of the Auto Mark machine.
Evnen thanked Gov. Pete Ricketts and members of the Legislature for authorizing the funds for purchasing the equipment and their dedication to safe and secure elections.
With this new technology, he stressed, the paper ballots aren’t going anywhere.
“Our election system continues to be paper based,” Evnen said. “You can’t hack paper.”
He said paper ballots are the most secure way to cast a vote and they will continue to be used in Nebraska.
Evnen add that another component to safe and secure elections is where voters get their information.
“We encourage all residents to use trusted sources for your election information,” he said. “I want you to know that there are foreign actors, state actors — Russia, China, Iran — who would like to disrupt our elections, but they’re not going to do it by trying to interfere with this machine or that machine.”
Evnen said the way people try to interfere with elections is by making voters doubt the security of the elections.
“Use trusted sources for your election information,” he said. “Contact Tracy, contact the Hall County commissioners office, contact the secretary of state’s office if you get information that causes you concern.”
Evnen said those offices will give voters correct information.