$1.3M to Fund Paper-Based Voting Machines in Clark County, Ohio

Ohio set aside $114 million to be used to upgrade voting machines throughout the state. In Clark County, the voting infrastructure has not seen an update in about 13 years and several machines failed during the last election.

by Parker Perry, Springfield News-Sun / February 4, 2019
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(TNS) — A more than $1 million investment is being made into Clark County voting machines and the county board has picked a company to buy the machines from.

The Clark County Board of Elections selected Clear Ballot as their new voting machines. Clear Ballot will replace Election System Software, which the county has used for decades, Clark County Election Board Director Jason Baker said.

“Since the state of Ohio has given out the money for it, about 10 counties have gone with Clear Ballot,” Baker said to the Clark County Commission at a recent meeting.

Clear Ballot machines are paper-based voting systems in which every voter ends the voting process with a scannable paper ballot. Once ballots are scanned, ballot images can be viewed by election officials.

The state of Ohio has dispersed more than $114 million to upgrade voting machines throughout the state. Clark County is receiving about $1.3 million from that total, Baker said.

“We are going to use all of it except for $20,000,” Baker said.

The Board of Elections said the funding couldn’t have come at a better time. Clark County hasn’t upgraded its voting machines for about 13 years.

Baker said in the last election, he had several voting machines fail — and that can’t happen anymore. The new equipment is expected to be in place before the May 2019 election.

While the investment is large, Baker told the commission he believes the new machines will save the county money in the long run. Now the county won’t have to pay to remake a ballot that is miss-marked.

Baker said reprinting a ballot cost about 30 cents. There were 700 ballots that needed to be remade in 2016. While the immediate cost isn’t more than $500, over a period of 10 years the savings add up.

Also, if one of the machines break, the election board can fix it using parts bought from third-party stores like Amazon or Best Buy instead of relying on a single company to fix it.

The county will receive the new voting machines in mid-February, Baker said, and then begin working to get the new set up ready for the New Carlisle city council elections which will take place in May.

“I don’t know how other counties are doing it or why they don’t, but we want as many elections under our belt as possible prior to the 2020 election,” Baker said. “We may have one or one and a half right now.”

Baker said Clear Ballot began as an election auditing company, so “the software they have in the background to audit elections is amazing.”

“A lot of great things can come from this software,” he said.

The Clark County Election Board came to the decision after showing off four companies to the community throughout the last couple of months. The board was adamant about getting residents opinions throughout the process.

Clear Ballot was chosen over Election System’s, Dominion Voting and Hart Inter Civic Inc.

“It should not rest solely on the board of election’s shoulders to make this decision — it should be the voters of Clark County,” Baker said. “We want input from everybody.”

The new machines use paper ballots, unlike the touch screen devices used in Miami County. Miami County’s 2018 election came under scrutiny when the Secretary of State’s Office noted while reviewing election results that the vote total was not consistent with the county’s voter participation history and asked the elections office to check results.

The check found that 6,288 early votes were not counted. The Secretary of State is investigating.

©2019 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.