Utah voters test drive new electronic voting machines

SALT LAKE CITY -- To vote in Utah, Lindsey Baum has to have some assistance.

"I always have to have someone visual there looking over my shoulder. We’re always kind of guaranteed no one needs to know," she told FOX 13. "Well, I don’t get that same courtesy."

Baum, who is blind, was invited to test some new electronic voting equipment that the state is considering purchasing. The Lt. Governor's Office wanted her input on machines produced by five different companies vying for the multi-million dollar state contract.

A test ballot is filled out during a demonstration of new voting equipment. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

"I know some people do better with the audio, some people like the hard copy print or hard copy Braille. But I love having both options," she said of her top choices.

Some machines provided a little of one, the other and both. She was joined by voters, county clerks and others who evaluated the machines for ease of use. The state is replacing its existing voting machines and offered a public demonstration Wednesday.

"That’s going to be critical part of our new voting equipment to make sure ease of use," said state elections director Mark Thomas. "Do you feel confident going to the polling equipment?"

Each company set up a booth to showcase their voting machines. They highlighted the features and security for people who showed up to the Utah State Capitol to try them out.

Voting equipment is demonstrated in the Utah State Capitol. (Photo by Ben Winslow, FOX 13 News)

A special committee has also been set up to evaluate the bids. Thomas told FOX 13 he estimates the state will spend about $10 million on the equipment. It's a third less than what Utah spent when it purchased electronic voting machines more than 10 years ago.

But in addition to offering polling places, the new equipment must also handle vote-by-mail elections.

"With the majority of counties going vote by mail, we need to look at equipment that tabulates faster, that can handle that volume of vote by mail ballots," Thomas said.

The demonstration runs Wednesday until 7 p.m. Public feedback will be considered as part of the overall bid process with a final decision expected in about a month.