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New voting machines to debut in June primary

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Voters in Bernalillo County and a handful of other communities around the state will cast their ballots using new voting machines in June.

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Wednesday that most people aren’t likely to notice much difference. They will still mark paper ballots and feed them into a machine that tabulates them.

But the new tabulators have bigger screens that make it easier to tell that the ballot has been accepted successfully, and the process is quicker, she said.

The county will hold mock elections the next two Saturdays, allowing voters to mark fake ballots and try out the new machines.

“They’re positive changes,” Toulouse Oliver said in a news conference. But “we want to make sure the public is aware of them.”

Ken Ortiz, a spokesman for Secretary of State Dianna Duran, said the new machines are part of an effort to modernize election technology statewide. The state spent about $6 million on machines that will be used in the June 3 primary in Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia, San Juan and Doña Ana counties, he said.

The rest of the state will get them too for future elections.

Toulouse Oliver said the machines may accelerate the vote counting on Election Night. They have two memory cards, for example, giving election workers a backup if the first one fails. Under the old system, all ballots cast on a machine had to be reread if its memory card failed.

There will also be some new voting locations this year in Bernalillo County.

The clerk’s annex, the first location to open each election cycle, will now be in the county’s Union Square building on Central Avenue, between Broadway and the railroad tracks. The old building, on Lomas, is now used entirely by a school.

To try out the machines, the mock elections are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and March 29 in the clerk’s annex, 111 Union Square SE, and at the Daskalos shopping center, 5339 Menaul NE.

Early voting for the primary election starts May 6 in the clerk’s annex. Eighteen other locations open May 17.

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