Denver is buying a new ballot sorting machine ahead of the general election — for $400,000

The purchase is part of the clerk’s ongoing effort to upgrade security and technology in the election system.
2 min. read
Hank Murphy and Deedee cast a ballot for the November 2020 election outside of the Carla Madison Rec Center on Colfax Avenue. Oct. 16, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver City Council has approved funding for a new ballot sorting machine that costs almost as much as a condo.

The city's Clerk and Recorder's Elections Division made the request this spring to replace one of its two sorting machines ahead of the November general election. The total cost is estimated to be $398,000, said Lucille Wenegieme, a strategic advisor in the clerk's office.

"There aren't any active problems with the current machines," Wenegieme said. She noted the department regularly evaluates voting equipment to meet the city's needs.

A new sorter, made by the company Runbeck, won't change the way ballots get counted in the city. It just has updated software and can scan ballots faster (up to 20,000 per hour). The old one could only count 6,000 per hour, Wenegieme said.

Council approved the purchase unanimously Monday. A finance committee first gave the green light for the funding last month.

"The cost for the new machine reflects mid-market price, including customized hardware, software and support," Wenegieme said. "The customizations are standard and are designed for optimal compliance with Colorado's specific voter registration system."

The new machine's main job is to scan the hundreds of thousands of ballot envelopes from Denver voters and cross check them with the state's voter registration database. At least 11 other counties in the state use the same type of technology to help process ballots.

Wenegieme said the machine being replaced is almost 10-years-old and will be retired in the coming years. Elections division staff expect to get the new machine up and running before the general election.

The purchase is part of the clerk's ongoing effort to upgrade security and technology in the election system. Wenegieme said the push is especially important given growing distrust in how elections are run broadly.

"Our office seeks to make sure we have up-to-date software and machine tools so that Denver voters can feel confident in their election administration," she said.

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