Digital Communities

Ohio Begins Giving Funds to Counties for New Voting Machines

Ashtabula County is set to replace 131 voting units, including 58 units for those with disabilities, 73 polling location tabulators, a central office tabulator and printing capabilities for early and absentee voters.

by Jon Wysochanski, Star Beacon / December 27, 2018
Paul Fraser at the voting booth Tuesday morning June 5, 2018, at the Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School in Los Angeles. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — Ashtabula County, Ohio, voters will be using new equipment in 2019 at the polls.

Senate Bill 135, passed in June, provided Ohio’s 88 counties with more than $114 million to acquire things like new voting machines, marking devices and tabulating equipment ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Ashtabula County will contract with vendor Election Systems & Software, LLC, to set up the new systems.

Ashtabula County was one of the first to submit a request for funding for new machines and tabulators to the Ohio Secretary of State, Board of Elections Director Duane Feher said. The county is seeking more than $800,000 in funds through the state for 131 precinct voting units, which includes 58 units for those with disabilities, 73 polling location tabulators, a central office tabulator and printing capabilities for early and absentee voters, Feher said.

Bringing in new machines isn’t a simple process, Feher said, but the board of elections will be able to have the new systems up and running by the May primary election.

“This is not simply a process of bringing in new machines and replacing old ones at a polling location,” Feher said. “This requires a lot of training by staff of the board of elections to integrate this new voting system with our voter database.”

The board of elections staff has been diligently working to move forward with implementing a new system, Feher said.

“We’ve all been working to get to this point and we’re looking forward to getting the new equipment by the end of January to start integrating it into the elections process,” Feher said.

The county will not likely have to provide a local match for the new equipment, Feher said, although around $26,775 will be spent on “soft costs” associated with training and implementation. Those dollars were incorporated into the Board of Elections budget request for 2019, Feher said.

Board of Elections Deputy Director Charlie Frye said the county last got new machines in 2006, but even then the software the equipment utilized was from the late 1990s. The last time new equipment was brought in was a response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election and the Florida recount involving hanging chads, Frye said.

“We’re going upgrade technology that is about 20 years old and upgrade it to relatively-new tech,” Frye said.

Unlike many other counties, Ashtabula County does its own ballot layout, Frye said, so servers and software will also be upgraded to continue doing this. The county wanted to get started on the process as soon as possible in order to train around 500 poll workers and have a smooth transition in time for the primary election, Frye said.

“It is a very complicated and time-consuming venture,” Frye said.

The board will also be required to get rid of the old equipment, Feher said, and it will likely be placed online for bid. The county will also have to pay $31,000 a year in maintenance costs for the first five years they have the new equipment.

©2018 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.