For the first time in Flagler County, election ballots will be printed on demand at the county’s three voting sites during early voting, saving money and improving ballot accuracy, Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart said. Early voting for the March 15 presidential preference primary begins Saturday (March 5), through March 12, though the elections office, as of today (March 2), has already received close to 4,000 mailed-in ballots.
The ballot-on-demand printers were paid for with a federal grant through the Help America Vote Act Lenhart applied for and secured for the coming election. The elections office had not applied for so-called HAVA dollars since 2010.
In previous elections, the supervisor’s office would print tens of thousands of ballots in advance of each election, always printing more than necessary to ensure that no voter would lack a ballot. But the approach–which will still apply on coming election days, as not enough printers can be provided at every precinct–creates costly redundancies and, eventually waste: unused ballots are discarded.
Lenhart said the ballot-on-demand printers (which look no different than ordinary office printers) have already saved taxpayers nearly $6,500 in ballot printing costs. “It is my mission to reduce costs and improve the elections experience in Flagler County,” she said.
On-demand ballots will also decrease the margin of error in the process of issuing ballots during early voting. In previous elections, election poll workers were challenged with selecting the correct ballot version from a wooden cabinet which contained up to 90 different such versions during the 2014 primary. There were several documented cases of the wrong ballot being given out. (For example, a Palm Coast resident required a ballot with Palm Coast City Council races included, while a Bunnell resident would not.)
With on-demand ballot printing, once a voter’s eligibility is verified, the specific ballot style is printed automatically. Errors won;t necessarily be eliminated entirely: poll workers are still keying in the required information to generate a ballot. But errors should be significantly reduced.
The printers have been calibrated and thoroughly tested for use during early voting for the coming presidential preference primary. Early voters can witness and use the new technology at three sites: At the supervisor’s office (at the Government Ser4vices Building), at the Flagler County Public Library on Palm Coast Parkway, and at the Palm Coast Community Center, also on Palm Coast Parkway. Early voting will take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.