60.6 F

Washoe County approves purchase of vote-by-mail sorting system


The purchase of a new vote-by-mail sorting system for the upcoming general election was approved Tuesday by Washoe County commissioners.

The Criterion Elevate machine, which is made by Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Fluence Automation, will cost about $349,000.

The county and state accepted a sub-award grant through the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which will fund Washoe County’s reimbursement with no match required. The federal government this year granted emergency funding to HAVA through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“This purchase will enable us to better utilize technology in place of manual sorting by hand, which is an extremely time-consuming process and open to human error,” Registrar of Voters Deanna Spikula wrote in a report to commissioners. “Using this technology will provide for more efficient handling of certain necessary ballot processing tasks while allowing our staff to perform other important election-related services.”

County officials say the sorting system will also allow for the ability to expand voting processing capabilities in future elections.

Spikula said any future maintenance and licensing costs would fall to the county. The machine will be put in the same secured room that has been used to process absentee ballots, she said.

A higher than usual number of mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 general election are expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county is also planning to set up drop boxes for ballots and will open a limited number of in-person polling places.

The Nevada Legislature passed a bill earlier this year during the 32nd Special Session that addresses requirements for elections in areas affected by emergencies or disasters. It requires mailing ballots to all active registered voters this year, a move which county officials say will increase the number of returned ballots the office will need to properly handle while processing the election.

Early voting starts Oct. 17. Those wishing to vote in person must surrender their mail-in ballot to an election worker at a polling site prior to voting electronically.

For a list of ballot drop-off locations and polling sites: https://www.washoecounty.us/voters/elections/Polling_Location.php

To register to vote or to verify one’s voter registration: https://www.washoecounty.us/voters/

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.