Election Day

A City of Fairbanks sample ballot hangs on the entryway door as voters cast their ballots at the Precinct #7 polling station at the JP Jones Community Development Center on election day Tuesday evening, October 1, 2019.

The state of Alaska is replacing the voting machines used in Fairbanks and elsewhere starting with the August 2020 state primary election, according to state and borough elections officials.

That means Tuesday’s election was the last regular election for the AccuVote machines that have been used here for the past 20 years.

The new machines are ImageCast Precinct ballot counters, or ICPs.

The voter experience will not change much, officials said. People will continue to vote privately in a booth and then feed their ballot into a machine that tabulates the votes.

The process will take a few seconds longer because the new technology captures an image of each ballot, officials said.

The city of Valdez has been using the ICP machines for a few years. The clerk said they work well.

“We love it. My voters love it. I haven’t had any problems with their equipment at all,” Valdez City Clerk Sheri Pierce said.

The machines are made by Dominion Voting Systems, the same company that manufactured the AccuVote machines.

“It’s very accurate,” Pierce said. “I have done some hand counts because I have had some close races. It has come out exactly as the machine has tabulated it.”

The city of Sitka has used the machines since 2014.

“I am tickled with it. It is straightforward, easy to use and voters are happy with it,” Sitka Clerk Sara Peterson said.

Gail Fenumiai, director of elections for Alaska, said the state signed a $4.4 million contract with Dominion Voting Systems in August.

That covers the costs of about 300 new voting machines, software, maintenance and a five-year warranty.

“It will be a complete replacement of everything we have,” Fenumiai said.

The AccuVote machines are getting buggy and replacement parts are becoming difficult to find, official said.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Clerk April Trickey has grown accustomed to troubleshooting technology problems with the voting machines in recent years.

The 2019 local elections were no different. Trickey had to replace machines at five precincts because of technology problems.

“They are old and tired,” she said. “They are ready to retire.”

The state and borough have been preparing for the technology replacement for years.

That will ramp up next year to include a mock election, Fenumiai said.

The ICP machines are certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and have also been in use in Bethel, Ketchikan and Anchorage, Fenumiai said.

Some local governments purchase their own ballot-counting machines while others, such as the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks borough, use state-owned equipment.

Jeremy Johnson, the state elections supervisor for Fairbanks, has been using a demo ICP unit and said it seems user-friendly. The LED display is bigger.

Voters will need to be patient, Johnson said, because of the extra step with the machines capturing a digital image. In some jurisdictions, those images are used during recounts, Fenumiai said.

It is not clear whether Alaska will use the images during recounts or just review the paper ballots, the state elections director said.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.

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