Did you notice this crucial change during Tuesday’s elections?

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If you voted Tuesday, you may not have even noticed a crucial change at all the precincts throughout Ingham. As you slipped your ballot into that tabulator, you may not have even stopped to question the new hunk of black plastic in front of you. That’s right, the tabulators themselves made a very public debut this week.

For a change that might have gone unnoticed, precinct workers and chairs didn’t have enough good things to say about this new technology. Mason City Clerk Sarah Jarvis said she was incredibly happy with the way tabulators were functioning.
“So far, they seem to be a lot sturdier and there has been a lot less jamming,” Jarvis said.

The tabulators also eliminate much of the need for intervention from the workers. For example, if a question on the ballot is left blank, Jarvis said that rather than having to reprint the ballot, the voter can simply submit their ballot and all responses will be counted except for the blank one.

Robin Bell, chairperson of the precinct at the Foster Community Center, said the tabulators are a welcome change. Bell said that because they are more voter-friendly, this leaves little room for error, making them more accurate.

Another big change that came to the polls on Tuesday was the Voters Assistance Terminal, or the VAT. This is a specialized touchscreen interface for voters with disabilities such as loss of vision, quadriplegia or loss of hearing. Jarvis and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum stress that the VAT is not just for voters with disabilities.

Currently, since there is only one VAT at each polling location, it is encouraged for use only by those under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but as this type of technology becomes widespread, it seems that it will become the new normal at the polls.

Michigan State University freshman Alia Jones said she didn’t know about the VAT, but would really want to try it in the future. When she voted at East Lansing Precinct 1 in Brody Hall, she used the traditional ballot.

“I feel like older generations might be opposed to it,” the humanities and pre-law student said.

Whether you like it or not, new voting technology is entirely inevitable.