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Ohio’s Push to Replace Aging Voting Machines May Come with $150 Million

To help solve the issue of aging voting equipment, the state is looking at providing millions in funding to the county boards of elections.

by Michael D. Pitman, Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio / September 30, 2016

(TNS) — Imagine using a computer that’s more than a decade old.

That’s what Butler and Warren county voters are doing, which is why there’s a statewide push to replace the older machines before the 2020 presidential election.

Some of these are simple paper ballot scanners, such as Warren County’s 184 machines. Butler County has 1,600 electronic voting machines that record a voter’s ballot to a unique card inserted into the machine.

To help solve this issue of aging voting equipment, the state is looking at providing upwards of $115 million to $150 million in funding to the county boards of elections, which likely would pay for at least half of their costs, said Aaron Ockerman, the executive director for the Ohio Association of Election Officials.

“It’s a real opportunity for the state and the local governments to solve a problem,” Ockerman said.

Purchasing new voting equipment is expected to follow the same process as when Ohio helped county elections offices purchase new electronic poll books, which most of the counties now use. The voting equipment purchasing would be handled by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Ockerman said.

But the question is how will the state help pay for the machines, and how much could each county expect to receive?

Some county boards of elections have already purchased new equipment, and Ockerman anticipates those agencies will receive some level of reimbursement in the first step. The second step is to reimburse county election offices as they purchase new machines.

Officials in Warren County, which still scan in paper ballots, anticipate their total cost could be close to $2 million to replace scanning machines at 172 precincts in 68 polling locations.

Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth said the county has $1.1 million in a special fund already saved in anticipation of replacing the machines, but he said the county’s elections board could go in a new direction.

“There are huge decisions to be made,” he said. “Do we stay a paper ballot county, or do we go electronic?”

Butler County officials anticipate it costing the upwards of $4 million to replace its voting machines.

Jocelyn Bucaro, deputy director for the Butler County elections office, said despite the machines “showing their age,” they still work and no machine will go out to the electorate without being tested first.

Typically the board would send out 1,200 to 1,300 voting machines, but because of the anticipated high voter turnout for this presidential election, and the fact that some machines can break down, they’ll send out 1,560 machines to the county’s 89 polling locations.

“Some break down every election, and we fully expect it to happen,” she said. “(Sending out so many) means voters won’t have to wait in line to vote.”

©2016 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio). Visit the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio) at www.journal-news.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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