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Polk County, Fla., to Replace All Voting Machines Before Year's End

The goal is to have to machines ready for this November's elections.

(TNS) -- LAKELAND — After 17 years and 179 elections, the county's voting machines are set to be replaced.


Lori Edwards, Polk's Supervisor of Elections, said recently at a county retreat that they are past due to replace the voting machines for the 167 precincts and early voting sites.

She expects to have the new machines, which will be similar to the current ones but with a more modern interface system, for the November elections.

County commissioners are expected to support the $3 million purchase of the machines over a two-year period.

Edwards said the old machines still work, but it has become increasingly hard to find replacement parts.

"There is no failure, but we don't want to face failure when talking about an election," Edwards said.

The current machines have been used in five presidential elections and dozens of primaries, run-offs, and city elections.

County Manager Jim Freeman said Tuesday the county plans to support the financial request this year and in 2018.

The county will purchase new equipment from either Election System & Software of Nebraska, or Dominion Voting Systems of Toronto, the two companies in Florida licensed to sell voting machines.

Edwards said there were few issues with the current voting machines in November, but her office received a number of phone calls about possibilities of fraud from concerned voters.

"There were certainly a lot of inquiries about safe equipment and fraud," Edwards said.

The current voting machines were introduced in the primaries just before the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and the following recount. That year, a number of Florida counties, most significantly Palm Beach, used voting machines that had punch cards and caused the infamous hanging chad chaos.

"They (supervisor's office) were so happy they had bought the new equipment then," said Edwards, who was not yet supervisor. "They (the machines) performed very well."

©2017 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.