[Image via roberthilllaw]
This week, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon announced that $7 million in technology grants will be made available on a matching basis to counties to purchase new election equipment. The Pioneer Press has more:
Minnesota will spend $7 million on new voting equipment in 2018, but the state’s elections chief says cities and counties need a lot more help.
Secretary of State Steve Simon announced the $7 million in grant funding for new election equipment that was the result of bipartisan legislation approved in 2017. The grants cover half the cost of mandatory equipment, like ballot counters, and 75 percent of the cost of electronic voter rosters.
“This is an important step for election integrity by ensuring that voting equipment is up to the standards Minnesotans expect,” Simon said in a statement. “However, local governments requested nearly double the amount of available funds. It is clear that replacing our state’s aging election equipment is an ongoing need.”
The grants are based on requests from counties – though the $7 million won’t cover the full amount of funds needed:
Simon’s office received requests for grant funding from 85 Minnesota counties and 17 municipalities. Of those requests, 59 were for $5.1 million for electronic voter rosters and 97 were for $8.2 million for mandatory equipment.
The $13.3 million in total requests is nearly twice the funding approved by the Minnesota Legislature. For instance, Ramsey County was awarded $319,578, a little more than half of its $557,540 request.
Still, the funds will help localities upgrade their equipment and ease some of the concerns associated with aging election technology:
Cities and counties applied for the money last fall and the grants will be awarded later this year. The new equipment will be purchased by summer of 2019.
Much of the elections equipment used in Minnesota was put in place after the Florida recount of the 2000 presidential vote. The recount led to federal legislation and one-time money to help states pay for new equipment.
A lot of that equipment is now more than a decade old and would cost $28 million to replace.
This is undoubtedly good news for Minnesota, which identified the issue of voting technology upgrades several years ago and has been working to address it, at least in part, with state funding ever since. Kudos to SoS Simon and his team, as well as to the county election offices who will now benefit from this joint effort to modernize voting in the North Star State. I expect we will now see a raft of stories like this one from Steele County laying out how localities will use these funds … stay tuned!