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Mercer County, W.Va., Approves $491K for New Voting Equipment

The Mercer County Commission allocated money the day after Election Day to replace the county's voting machines with a new system. The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan and Coal Severance Tax.

(TNS) — Almost $500,000 in American Rescue Plan and Coal Severance Tax funding was approved Wednesday for new voting machines that will replace the aging systems now being used in Mercer County.

The Mercer County Commission allocated money the day after Election Day to replace the county's voting machines with a new system. County Clerk Verlin Moye said the new machines are manufactured by ES&S out of Omaha, Nebraska.

"The commission has just approved $250,000 from coal severance, then $241,000 will come from the ARP funds and remainder I have had approved by a grant, Help America Vote Act grant, administered by the Secretary of State's Office," Moye said after the meeting. "It's a federal grant that we applied for, and it's been approved. The money has been secured. I have put the ES&S Company on notice that we have the funds, and the next step is to get these machines in here and start training."

A member of the public attending Wednesday's meeting asked Moye when the new machines would arrive.

"These will most definitely, unless something catastrophic happens, will be used in the primary of 2024," Moye said. "We're looking forward to it. We've put this purchase off for quite some time. COVID put us on a little delay there, but we're back on track. Our current system was at the end of its life. They had a 20-year life, so it was time to upgrade."

Moye told the county commission that the new system is a type that's being used across the country. The models are not Dominion voting machines, and they are not connected to the Internet.

"It's a nice system and it's very secure. It's been certified by the Federal Election Commission as well as the ( West Virginia) State Election Commission, and it is the most widely used voting system in the United States today," he said.

Moye described how the new system will operate. The new machines' screens will be similar to the ones now in use, but easier to read.

"Well, each precinct will have a scanner and the voter will come in; and, of course, as before we will see that they are registered and they will be issued a ballot, which is about 4 inches by 12 inches, something like that," Moye after the county commission adjourned. "And then they will be led over to the tabletop units and they will vote."

"There are different things you can do to enhance the reading capability, but they will insert the ballot and they will vote the ballot. Then it will print after they have a chance to review (it)," he said. "They will see what they actually voted a lot easier than they did with the paper roll on the old system. After they confirm that is in fact what they voted, they will go over and be assisted by poll workers on opposing parties, various parties, and run that through the scanner and it will record digitally how the voter had voted."

At the end of an election night, a thumb drive will be used to upload the data from the scanner.

"The scanner is called a DS-200. We currently use a DS-100, which we process our absentee ballots with that," Moyes stated. "We will have about 160 of the tablets and we will have 45 of the scanners to process and read the ballots."

Moye said that the current machines did not have serious problems during Tuesday's election.

"Not that we saw other than routine printer problems, things like that. A couple of calibration problems," he said. "The testing and clearing process, there were a variety of new problems that were experienced by our technicians. They are really starting to give up the ghost."

There are plans to organize traveling training sessions to familiarize poll workers and the public with the new machines when they arrive, Moye added.

The county commission approved the funding unanimously.

©2022 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.