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Rochester Hills — Residents in 11 Michigan counties will use the state’s new, state-of-the-art voting equipment in the Aug. 8 primary, and elections officials showed off the new machines Wednesday.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said at a news conference that the state received the “best possible deal” and that the new voting machines are faster, more user-friendly and more secure than previous technology.

“These machines have much more visual guidance,” said state Bureau of Elections Director Sally Williams. “They have bigger screens, they’re better at providing messages, and if there is a jam it will clearly tell you if your ballot was counted or not.”

Johnson said she doesn’t expect there to be a training curve with the new equipment because the machines are “too simple to use.”

Detroit is one of seven communities in Wayne County that will be using the new equipment during next week’s primary. The city ordered nearly 700 of the new machines in April, costing Detroit more than $900,000.

The state footed the rest of the bill, which was about $3 million, said Detroit Elections Director Daniel Baxter. The cost is well worth it, according to Baxter.

“It’s worth it for the entire state,” Baxter said. “It was well past time for new machines.”

Johnson said the state is funding the first five years of this transition, spending $30 million of its leftover funding from the federal Help America Votes Act, and another $10 million appropriated by the Michigan legislature. The long-term maintenance costs, however, are left to the local communities.

According to Johnson, each county was able to contract with the software and equipment company of its choice. This allowed local jurisdictions to have more say, and it will help individualize the voting process, she said.

Wayne County signed a contract with Dominion Voting Systems of Toronto, Baxter said. The system provides the county with optical scan machines in which a voter marks a paper ballot and then feeds it through a scanner.

This new system is faster, more efficient, and provides a paper trail for that can be used for recounts, like the one following the Nov. 8 presidential election, said Baxter.

Johnson said a few other states have updated their voting technology, but Michigan is ahead thanks to this new equipment.

“We were ready, willing, and able to help cities across the state,” she said. “And now Michigan is ahead of the curve.”

kmcghee@detroitnews.com

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