- Associated Press - Saturday, August 5, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah election officials at the Capitol brought voters in to test out new voting machines with a goal of finding a system that is secure and quickly counts ballots from counties that do all-mail voting.

The voter feedback from Wednesday will help an ongoing state process to choose the best provider of voting equipment for county officials, Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas said. Vetting should be completed in the next couple of months, Thomas said.

The new technology will provide counties with cost benefits, but the Legislature has appropriated only $270,000 toward replacing the machines.

More money will be sought, but counties likely will have to come up with much of the money on their own if they plan to use the new equipment, Thomas said.

“All of this is in effort so that in 2018, those counties that are ready and willing will have a road map to be able to replace this equipment,” Thomas said. “They’ll have the vendor selected, the equipment selected.”

The state’s largest county, however, has already declared it will not be purchasing new voting machines.

“We won’t be looking to upgrade,” Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said. “We’ve been updating our system along the way and purchased high-speed ballot scanners when we switched to mail-only in 2015. We had 3,000 machines from before we switched to mail, so we now have plenty of backup equipment.”

All but seven of Utah’s 29 counties have shifted toward mail-in only elections. The technology selected will speed up mail-in ballot counting to get election results in quicker, officials said.

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