Minnesota voters always cast their vote on paper ballots, but special equipment often helps to count ballots, mark ballots, and sign in and register voters.
All ballot tabulators used in Minnesota are optical scan, so they “read” the ballot and record a vote for each candidate that has their target (usually an oval) filled in on the ballot. Equipment is usually designed for use in a polling place, as a central counter, or both. Central count devices typically can handle higher volumes and may be used to count polling place ballots, absentee ballots, mail ballots, or some combination. Equipment currently used includes:
Other tabulators have been used in the past. In addition, some precincts in the state are still counted by hand. View a map of ballot tabulators used in the 2018 general election.
With a few exceptions, federal law requires that all polling places must have equipment which allows private and independent voting for voters with disabilities. Assistive voting devices fulfill this role. They are separate pieces of equipment from the tabulators, and do not actually tally votes but merely help a voter mark an optical scan ballot. This equipment includes:
Additional information about this equipment and its capabilities is on the Ballot Marking Machine webpage.
Some polling places in Minnesota use electronic pollbooks (also known as ePollbooks) instead of paper rosters. Electronic pollbooks are used to check in registered voters and also to assist in the election day registration process. Only one kind of electronic pollbook is used currently:
Minnesota election administrators use a number of procedures to ensure equipment will accurately record valid votes. Equipment is approved by the state, tested locally before elections, and the results audited after elections.
Before being certified for use in Minnesota, all voting equipment must be tested and certified by test labs accredited by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and undergo detailed additional testing by the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Before every election, local election officials test all equipment to be used in that election. For the preliminary testing, ballots are marked with assistive voting devices, a set of pre-marked ballots is fed into the ballot tabulators, and the machine's totals are compared with the pre-determined results. Some equipment is also tested at a Public Accuracy Test shortly before the election. Public Accuracy Tests are open to the public—contact your local election official to find the time and location of their next scheduled test.
After each state general election, counties randomly draw a set of precincts where they audit the results from the ballot tabulators. In the audit, votes for certain offices are counted by hand, and that total is compared with the machine-counted results from election night. Read more information on Post Election Reviews.
Learn about how elections work in Minnesota