Voting Systems Used in Minnesota
(1) How are ballots counted in Minnesota?
Ballots in Minnesota are counted in one of two ways:
Traditional paper ballots are counted by hand.
The newer “optical scan” paper ballots are counted by a
voting system that reads (or “scans”) the marks that voters have made on the
ballot. These marks can be shaded ovals next to a candidate’s name, or shadings
to connect a broken arrow next to a candidate’s name, depending on the model of
optical scan voting system that a precinct is using.
(2) What are the different types of optical scan voting
There are two basic types of optical scan voting systems.
The difference between the types is where the votes are counted.
Count Unit – A precinct count unit is used to count all of the votes at the
polling place for that precinct. After the precinct count unit has counted all
the votes, the results are sent to the county election office, either by hand
delivery of precinct summary statements, or in some precincts, the results are
sent electronically by modem. Precinct counters can automatically alert voters
to problems with their ballots before the voter leaves the polling place. For
example, if a voter has accidentally voted for too many candidates at the
general election, the precinct count unit rejects the ballot. The voter then
has the chance to ask for a replacement ballot that will be counted.
Count Unit – A central count unit is generally located in a central
location at the county government facility. Some counties may have more than
one central count unit, depending upon the number of ballots cast in the
county. After the polls close, the ballots are not counted at the
precinct polling place. Instead, the ballots are transported by election judges
to the central count facility. There, county election officials run all the
optical scan ballots from each precinct through the central count unit and come
up with vote totals for each precinct.
(3) Who provides the optical scan voting systems to
There are two vendors of optical scan voting systems in
Minnesota: Election Systems & Software and Global Election Systems. These
vendors offer different models of voting systems to counties and
municipalities, who may purchase the systems off of a state contract that
includes both vendors.
(4) How do the election results get from cities or towns
to the county election officials?
Although the Secretary of State receives election results
from each of the 87 Minnesota county auditors on election night, each county
first receives the election results from the cities or towns located in that