UDATED | County switching to new ballot counting equipment for August Primary

Kitsap County will use equipment to count ballots starting in the Aug. 6 Primary Election.

Kitsap County will use equipment to count ballots starting in the Aug. 6 Primary Election.

County officials said the new system will mean increased efficiency and reduced costs when the Elections Division begins using the new gear later this year.

The ballot-counting system was purchased from Hart InterCivic, an Austin, Texas-based company, and replaces the current 18-year-old optical-scan system.

“Our new ballot counting system enables us to further modernize the Elections Division by replacing equipment that is ancient by current standards,” said Kitsap County Auditor Walt Washington. “I anticipate a marked improvement for voters and Elections Division staff.”

The new counting system is based on digital scan technology.

“Our previous Dominion Voting system lasted nearly two decades and provided great value to Kitsap voters, but it has limitations and is showing its age,” Elections Division Manager Dolores Gilmore said. “The new system allows us to streamline our operations, which is critical especially during larger General Elections.”

The ballot counting system cost $247,995, which includes financing of the lease. The county will own the system after five annual payments of $49,599, said Elections Manager Dolores Gilmore.

Gilmore said the system has already been tested at the state and federal level, and added that Kitsap County Elections staff will also complete an extensive acceptance test that’s estimated to take several days. The test will be open to the public and observers from both of the major political parties will be requested.

Tests will include verification from a representative of the Washington Secretary of State that only the approved software is installed and installation is complete and correct. County election workers will program an election and print and use ballots in four different sizes and for every possible ballot style.

Staff will also verify accurate tabulation of the ballots with multiple candidates and measures as well as over, under and write-in choices, Gilmore said.

County officials said Kitsap will be the 25th county in Washington to use the Hart InterCivic system, which is also used by other governments across the country. The system is certified at both the state and federal level.

Officials said the Hart system will also bring other benefits. It uses less expensive, off-the-shelf hardware, and ballots can be printed on lighter weight paper, which will mean no additional postage will be needed for large ballots.

There’s also one big switch for voters: Citizens will mark their choices by filling in blocks instead of connecting arrows on the new ballots.

“This is an exciting opportunity to partner with Kitsap County Elections to provide a state-of-the-art ballot counting system that meets all of their needs,” said Justin Morris, director of sales for Hart InterCivic’s West Region.

“We are committed to making this a smooth transition for the Elections Division and Kitsap County voters,” he said.

The county may eventually sell the old ballot-counting system to other counties that are still using that system.