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Clark County preparing to replace voting machines, possible $1M cost

The Clark County Board of Elections wants to create a designated fund to save money to purchase new voting equipment in the future — possibly before the next presidential election in 2020, officials said.

The fund would be designed solely for that purpose, elections board Director Jason Baker said. The upgrades may cost about $1 million.

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“This will ensure that 10 to 12 years down the road, we don’t need to say, ‘State give us the money,’” Baker said.

Over the past five years, the board has saved about $350,000 in permanent improvement money to purchase new equipment. However the board of elections doesn’t want to rely on the state to purchase new voting equipment, Baker said.

“At some point in time, the state is going to dry up its money and not be able to purchase for us or reimburse us for voting equipment,” he said.

The equipment is 12 years old, Elections Board Member Lynda Smith said, two years past its recommended life.

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“By the time we get to another (presidential election), if we have a dramatic equipment failure, it’s going to be bad,” Baker said.

So the money charged to local governments that put issues on the ballot would go to a separate board of elections fund, he said, rather than the county’s general fund. General fund money can be used for any purpose, Clark County Administrator Jenny Hutchinson said.

“It’s (currently) an earmark,” she said.”If we needed the money, we could use it.”

If a resolution is passed, the county can rescind the resolution at any time and bring the money back into its general fund, Baker said.

The change would make it easier for election officials to see how much money it has available for upgrades, Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax-Wilt said.

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The Clark County Board of Elections will make the decision on when to purchase new equipment and county commissioners will have the final vote on the purchase, Baker said.

“It’s the county’s money,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s spent correctly and we don’t want to waste anything.”

No discussions have taken place about what kind of equipment to buy, Baker said.

In December, the board of elections will be hosting approved voting machine vendors from across the country, he said.

“We’re going to invited everyone to watch and see what they have,” Baker said.

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The fund could also help plan for elections in future generations, he said, especially as technology continues to become more expensive.

“We need to look to prepare for the future, not just trying to get a quick fix now,” Baker said.

The commission and county staff will review the proposal over the next few weeks, Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.

Clark County has about 90 precincts and about 89,000 registered voters.


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