Minnesota voters always cast their vote on paper ballots, but special equipment is often used to count ballots, mark ballots, check in, and register voters. Nobles County uses equipment made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), KNOWiNK, and Democracy Live.
All ballot tabulators used in Minnesota are optical scan, so they “read” the ballot and record a vote for each candidate that has their target (usually an oval) filled in on the ballot. Nobles County currently uses the ES&S DS200 to tabulate ballots at the polling place on Election Day. The ES&S DS200 is used at the Auditor-Treasurer's office to tabulate absentee and mail ballots. This equipment does not contain a modem and is never connected to the internet.
With a few exceptions, federal law requires that all polling places must have equipment which allows private and independent voting for voters with disabilities. Assistive voting devices fulfill this role. They are separate pieces of equipment from the tabulators, and do not tally votes but merely help a voter mark an optical scan ballot. As required by state law, this equipment is connected to a printer and produces a full-size paper ballot. This equipment is never connected to the internet.
Nobles County Election Administrators use a number of procedures to ensure equipment will accurately record valid votes. Equipment is approved by the state, tested locally before elections, and the results audited after elections.
Before every election, local election officials test all equipment to be used in that election. For the preliminary testing, ballots are marked with assistive voting devices, a set of pre-marked ballots is fed into the ballot tabulators, and the machine's totals are compared with the pre-determined results. The Voting Equipment is also tested at a Public Accuracy Test which occurs within 14 days of every election. Public Accuracy Tests are open to the public.
After each state general election, counties randomly draw a set of precincts where they audit the results from the ballot tabulators. In the audit, votes for certain offices are counted by hand, and that total is compared with the machine-counted results from election night. More information is provided on Post-Election Reviews.