Secretary Land selects new statewide voting system

Image of Help America Vote Act (HAVA) red, white and blue logo

August 4, 2003

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today announced that Michigan is adopting an optical scan voting system that injects much-needed convenience and consistency into the election process.

This progressive system lets precincts do away with outmoded voting methods such as punch cards, paper ballots and lever machines. The result is a uniform voting experience for all state residents and greater ease for election workers.

"This statewide standard will bridge the technology gap that hinders Michigan's election process," said Land, who is the state's chief election officer. "Bringing every precinct on line with optical scan technology enhances the experience for voters and election workers alike. We're ushering in a new and exciting era of voting in Michigan. This upgrade paves the way for further improvements that will make our process more contemporary, efficient, accurate and convenient."

The state will pay for the equipment through its anticipated share of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds.

More than 65 percent of Michigan's 5,305 precincts already employ optical scan systems. The remaining 1,829 precincts will adopt the method.

Optical scan is one of five different voting methods used throughout the United States. All currently are used in Michigan, sometimes within the same county. Therefore, voters moving to a new jurisdiction are often forced to learn a new system.

With optical scan, voters indicate their ballot choices on a paper form by marking the designated areas with a pen or pencil.

Michigan will employ "precinct-based" tabulation technology, in which voters remove the ballot from its "secrecy sleeve" and feed it into a tabulator. This machine optically scans the ballot and electronically records the votes in its memory. The paper ballot is then channeled into a storage bin where it remains until the polls close.

Advantages of the system include:

  • Providing voters with a ballot that can be reviewed before it is cast.
  • An effective way to protect voters against ballot spoilage.
  • The faster compilation and reporting of election results.
  • More effective voter education as only one system is involved.
  • Consistency between absentee ballots and ballots issued at the polls.
  • Conducting recounts from a tangible document created by the voter.
  • The ability for precincts to erect additional voting stations with little notice to accommodate unanticipated voter traffic.

The Department of State will seek bids from qualified equipment vendors later this month. Qualified vendors are expected to be identified by November.

All jurisdictions in each county must use the same equipment. As a group, the county, city and township clerks will determine the vendor for their county. The vendor must be selected from the state's list of qualified suppliers.

Jurisdictions now using central count punch-card systems, lever machines or paper ballots will be the first to receive optical scan equipment. The state's goal is to give these jurisdictions the ability to have this technology ready for use by the August and November 2004 statewide elections if they choose.

Land selected the optical scan system after carefully considering the extensive research of state election experts and input from the Advisory Committee. Public Act 91 of 2002 requires the acquisition of a uniform voting method once federal funds are made available and appropriated by the Legislature. The funds were appropriated under Public Act 39 of 2003.



Map: Voting Equipment in Michigan PDF

List: Type of Voting Equipment used by County PDF

List: Type of Voting Equipment used by County WORD FILE

Report: A Uniform Voting System for Michigan PDF

Report: A Uniform Voting System for Michigan WORD FILE

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