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Monday, July 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Dane County voters to soon mark ballots with ovals rather than lines

Residents can check out the new system at eight libraries by voting in a mock election.
Credit:Joe Tarr
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Dane County and Madison are unveiling new voting tabulators this week, inviting people to try them out at eight different libraries.

They system isn't radically different from the old one, but voters will be asked to vote in slightly different ways. Mainly, they'll have to fill in an oval next to the name of the candidates they vote for, rather than drawing a line, as the old system required.

Scott McDonell, Dane County clerk, says voters should also be careful when feeding their ballots into the tabulators. The new machines, after registering each ballot, will prompt voters with a message that they've successfully voted. But if they've incorrectly filled in the ballot -- say by voting for two people for president -- the machine will tell them something is wrong with the ballot.

"It's not that different," McDonell says. "There are a few small differences. The ballot uses ovals instead of arrows. The machine is slightly different, but it's pretty close."

The tabulators -- which cost $5,750 per machine -- offer other features, like automatically creating a PDF image of each ballot, which makes it easier to check and recheck write-ins. They also weigh less and use lighter paper, which will save on printing costs.

Madison residents can check out the new system at eight libraries, including the Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St., by voting in a mock election for a favorite car manufacturer, vocalist and ice cream flavor.

McDonell says the county is currently training poll workers on the new system. They will be used for the first time in the February 18 primary, followed by the April 1 general election. The spring elections include Dane County Board and Madison school board races.

Says McDonell: "We intentionally wanted to work through the kinks in a lower turnout election instead of trying to do this in the fall."

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