Clark County to get $1.2 million for new voting machines

Clark County expects to receive about $1.2 million to buy new voting machines that are expected to be implemented by the May 2019 election.

Clark County Election Board Director Jason Baker said the county will likely stay with paper ballots, but the machines used to count the votes needs upgrading.

“We do have some money already set aside for new voting equipment so with the money from the state and the money set aside we should have enough,” Baker said.

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Clark County and Champaign County haven’t upgraded their voting machines since 2005. There have been many upgrades and improvements in voting technology since then. A bill signed last week by Gov. John Kasich will allow county election boards across Ohio to purchase a new generation of voting machines. The bill will allow the state to disperse about $114.5 million throughout the state for the new equipment.

The County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Elections Officials estimated it would cost the counties altogether roughly $116 million to purchase optical-scan equipment and $267 million for hybrids.

There have been conversations about getting new voting machines in Clark County for a while, Baker said. The current machines have worked well for the county, he said.

“The machines we have now are workhorses and have been good machines,” Baker said.

However, at times they have been unreliable. Baker said there have been cases where the machines were damaged during transport or stopped working in the middle of an election. Voting tabulation hasn’t been impacted by the malfunctions, but the time for new machines is now.

“We have been monitoring them for the last two elections,” Baker said. “The majority of phone calls is about the machines acting up.”

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The county has 111 voting machines — 90 of which are used on Election Day. Baker said the board office got 15 calls during the May primary election where voting machines weren’t working the way they should.

Baker said without the critical state funding, it would be at least seven years before Clark County could update the systems in place. He expects the Clark County board to begin looking at vendors and discussing actually purchasing the new machines after the mid-term elections in November.

The bill that was signed by Kasich was sponsored by state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson.

Champaign County Election Board officials said they are still discussing how to spend the new money. Champaign County Board of Elections Director Meredith Bodey said the county currently has 32 voting machines — 28 in use on Election Day — and 15 for handicapped voters.

“They’re holding up, but it’s getting harder to get parts for them,” Bodey said previously

Many of the problems with the Champaign County machines are caused strictly from the age, she said.

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