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Auditor says 3 voting precincts in Morris possible

Voters in Morris could be using new voting machines in the next election, but they may be doing so at fewer polling sites.

Stevens County Auditor Amanda Barsness said at the Nov. 21 Stevens County Commissioners meeting that she's been discussing a reduction from six to three election polling sites in the city of Morris.

"Six is a lot for a community this size," Barsness said of Morris which has a population of about 5,300.

If the sites are reduced from six to there there would be "about 1,000 to 800 voters per polling location," Barsness said. "Which is very manageable."

A possible reduction in Morris polling sites is one part of a voting equipment plan proposed by Barsness.

She'd like to replace the voting equipment at the Morris sites if sites are reduced to three. Barsness would also buy epoll equipment, which is equipment that allows new voters to register electronically instead of using a handwritten form. Barsness said the electronic method would save time at election sites in Morris.

"It's a lot of work to handle election-day registration," Barsness said. It takes time to read handwritten forms and in some cases, to determine the handwriting, she said.

"We had over 600 voter registrations last year," Barsness said.

Barsness expects the county to receive grant money to help pay for the costs of new equipment.

The total cost of three voting machines at three Morris polling sites, a new back-up machine and two new mail-in ballot machines at the auditor's office is $32,400, Barsness said. A grant will cover half the cost so the county pays about $16,000.

If Morris chooses to reduce election polling sites to three, Barsness would buy two epoll machines for each site for a total of six at a cost of $1,300 each. A grant would cover 75 percent of the cost so the county's total cost for all six epoll machines would be $1,950, Barsness said.

The city of Morris would not pay for the machines because counties cover costs of such machines.

The equipment plan is in the county's budget for next year. Commissioners plan to take action on the equipment plan at the Dec. 6 meeting. The action would include approving the submission of a grant application.