When McPherson County residents go to the polls on Nov. 6, they will have the option of using a new system to cast their vote.

McPherson County Clerk Hollie Melroy said the department has purchased a total of 17 expressVote machines — one for every polling place in the county — and that the new equipment has several benefits.

People can vote on the ExpressVote machines by using a touchscreen or control pad. The control pad has braille markings for the visually impaired and the machine has a headphone jack so they — or anyone else who cannot read — can listen to the ballot options.

“It’s all ADA approved,” Melroy said.

The new machines are replacing previous ADA-compliant voting machines that were purchased around 15 years ago.

The ExpressVote machines cost $3,400 each, but could prove a money-saver  if more voters use them because the ballots inserted into the machine are blank, not pre-printed.

“This cool part about (that) is, I can use those in any election,” Melroy said. “...Now, I have ballots that I can use over and over, because there’s nothing on them.”

The blank ballots are about half the cost of printed ballots, which have to be shredded if they are not used.

“The problem is, I have to buy enough ballots to cover every single voter that could come out. If 30 percent are coming out, I’m shredding 70 percent,” Melroy said. “If I can get voters to start using (the new machines), I can save taxpayers a lot of money.”

The ExpressVote machines are also much lighter — a mere 20 pounds compared to the old 60-pound machines — easing the burden on election workers.

“That is too heavy for anyone to be messing with,” Melroy said.

There is also no danger the ExpressVote machines could be hacked — they have no Internet connection.

“They are not plugged into the Internet. There’s not even a place for them to be plugged in to the Internet,” Melroy affirmed.

Voters can still choose to write in a candidate on any of the machines, but Melroy said “joke “ votes tie up resources — and taxpayer dollars.

“If you don’t have anyone who you want to vote for, don’t put anyone,” Melroy said. “The Mickey Mouses, Donald Ducks, Papa Smurfs, Jack Blacks — all of those have to be hand counted by a committee.”

Individuals may request to use the new machines at any polling place on election day or use it to cast an advance ballot at the McPherson County Clerk’s office located in the county courthouse.

“We have advance voting that goes on for three weeks beforehand,” Melroy said.

Melroy is also training election workers — especially those who are younger — on how to use the system and ask voters if they would be interested in trying it.

“We’re going to have some college students coming from McPherson College to help, this election,” Melroy said. “And Elyria (Christian) School has had some volunteers from the government class who will come help, this time.”

Melroy also shared she is willing to listen to any suggestions or concerns people have regarding voting.

“Send me a letter, call me, send me an email — whatever you want to do. I have an open-door policy,” Melroy said. “If there was a problem, come in and let’s talk about it. ...I can’t fix it if I don’t know it’s broken.”

To contact the McPherson County Clerk’s Office, call 620-241-3656 or email hdm@mcpcoks.us.

 Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.