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Hundreds turn out to help St. Louis County test new election tech ahead of 2020 elections

This new system may have a familiar feel. Gone are the touch screens. Paper is back.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — It wasn't a super Tuesday, but more like testing Tuesday in St. Louis County.

Roughly 500 people stood in line to try St. Louis County's brand new election equipment for 2020. The county retired its previous machines that ran on 20-year-old technology.

“We couldn't get parts for most of the equipment anymore,” said Republican Director of Elections Rick Stream. “So it was time to get new equipment.”

But this new system may have a familiar feel. Gone are the touch screens. Paper is back. 

After each voter is checked in, each voter is printed an individual ballot.

In a county with around 1,200 precincts, a polling place can serve voters with up to nine different ballots.

“This way, they will always get a correct ballot,” said Stream who added the new system will be less expensive to run since the county won’t have to print extra ballots that are never used. 

And, theoretically, the polling places won’t run out of ballots as some have in years past. 

“That's correct,” said Stream. “As long as we have paper stock which we will.” 

Scanners will count and verify the ballots — rejecting ballots with errors for voters to correct and making sure no one tries to vote more than once. 

And while St. Louis County is confident its elections were always secure, for some, paper ballots may just feel safer. 

“I am a poll worker and I notice the last few elections people want paper because they don't trust electronics,” said Jennifer Luner who thinks county elections should be embracing more sophisticated technology. 

“To me, we should be voting on our phones from home,” said Luner. 

“I would tell the voters as somebody who has run in elections for 25 years and has always been concerned about security of the voting equipment and ballots that we are doing a tremendous job here in St. Louis County of protecting the integrity of the vote,” said Stream.

St. Louis County said they did not believe the old system could handle the high turnout expected for the 2020 election. Additionally, the new system, called Ballot on Demand, is the most secure method of voting available today, a press release from the county Board of Elections said.

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