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West Virginia County Works to Institute New Voting Machines

Mercer County, W.V., is preparing for the day when electronic voting machines nearing the end of their usefulness will have to be replaced with newer models costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

(TNS) — Mercer County is preparing for the day when electronic voting machines nearing the end of their usefulness will have to be replaced with newer models costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

During its September meeting, the Mercer County Commission discussed the pending need to replace about 162 voting machines used for local, state and national elections. Machines the county now uses were projected to last between 16 to 20 years, County Clerk Verlin Moye said.

“They came out in ’06 and this is 2021, so we’re looking at 15 years,” Moye said. “So that’s near the end of their life expectancy, and due to the cost we need to be prepared for the upcoming expenditure. It’s going to cost anywhere between $853,000 to $1.2 million. That’s the kind of expenditure we need to save for and prepare for. Just like you would do at the house, you have an emergency plan, so to speak, for a planned purchase.”

When the time comes to replace the voting machines, the county will need to purchase 162 machines, at least two scanners and other support machines, Moye said.

“The old technology has changed and, of course, all the requirements like security, safety, paper trails and all those issues have been addressed,” Moye said.

Keeping the county’s voting machines in service is becoming more difficult as other localities switch to newer voting technology.

“Raleigh (County) has just recently changed to the new technology,” Moye said. “They’ve got new machines. As fewer and fewer counties have the old machines, it’s harder for the manufacturer to support the older technology. It costs them. They certainly don’t want to keep a manufacturing unit for the old technology.”

Mercer County currently uses electronic voting machines made by the ES & S Company, an industry leader in the manufacture and support of voting machines, he said.

“One of the things that’s important to note is that these machines and all machines have to go through a federal certification process as well as a state certification process to make sure they are safe and unhackable and secure, and function as they should,” Moye added. “They’re really just calculators is all they are.”

Newer machines will be larger than the current ones and more expensive to operate, Moye said.

“When we upgrade to new machines, we’re also going to have to spend more per year to administer each election,” he said.

County employees will need to transport the new machines to the county’s polling places and return them to the Mercer County Courthouse when voting is over. Poll workers can fold up the current voting machines and put them in their cars’ trunks, but the new ones will be too large.

“One example of that is we deliver the machines now and the poll workers return the machines,” Moye said. “With the new technology, we will have to deliver and pick them up as well. They’re larger and they require a U-Haul, a van of some sort.”

The county commissioners decided Tuesday to begin discussing how to start saving the funds needed for new voting machines. The current machines are working now, but the time when parts and service will not be available is coming, County Commission President Gene Buckner said.

“We decided in a discussion to start looking at putting money aside,” Buckner said about the high cost. “It’s ridiculous, but we’ve got to do it.”

© 2021 the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (Bluefield, W.Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.