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Ballot sorting machine helping Ada County navigate influx of absentee ballots

Absentee ballot Ada County
Posted at 1:04 PM, Nov 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-03 12:32:07-04

BOISE, Idaho — Ada County Election officials say this is the third-highest number of requests they’ve seen for absentee ballots.

Back in 2020 during the Presidential Election, Ada County Elections also saw a huge uptick, prompting them to spend about half a million dollars on a machine that helps process ballots more quickly.

“Our quantity is just so high and it seems to be going up and up with every election as people get more familiar with absentee voting,” Absentee Specialist Rachel DenHartog said.

Absentee Ballot sorting machine

“With 54,000 requests coming in, we’re staying very busy processing all of those ballots,” Deputy Ada County Clerk Trent Tripple said.

Of those 54,000 requested, about 30,000 have already been returned. Once returned back to the elections office, the ballots meet “Bessie,” the ballot sorting machine.

“It's definitely something we use in large elections like this one. There are not enough physical hands-on people that we can find to help do all of the sorting and I think it’s more accurate,” DenHartog said.

Related: Ada County Election's Office purchases almost half a million dollar ballot-sorting machine

“Bessie” has the ability to scan about 20,000 ballots in one hour, which significantly speeds up the process.

“The machine has a couple of different functions. One is our incoming scan when we get the mail, we will run it through, and it will date and time stamp the absentee envelope and it also will take an image of the envelope signature so we have a way to process that signature with the signature on file,” DenHartog said.

Once the signatures are verified, the ballots will get re-run, and sorted into districts and the machine will alert to anything that wasn't adequately verified or causes concerns.

Related: Officials see uptick in absentee ballot requests across the Treasure Valley

“This machine has been a saving grace for us because this room wouldn’t fit enough people I don’t think to have everybody manually organizing the ballots," DenHartog said.