touchscreen voting machines

Candidate pushed for funding for new voting machines

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Frank LaRose got a close-up look at the Wood County voting machines that will be replaced next year with funding he pushed through the Ohio Senate. Wood County’s 12-year-old touchscreen systems are faring better than voting machines in some counties, where spare parts have been scrounged up from Tractor Supply stores or paper clip stashes. “This is an investment for a long time with the state, so we have reliable, safe machines,” State Senator LaRose, the Republican candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, said Thursday as he stopped in Bowling Green. Senate Bill 135, sponsored by LaRose, sets aside $114.5 million for new voting machines in Ohio. Wood County’s share is $1.3 million. The funding for the voting machines comes as the current systems get closer and closer to being obsolete. Wood County’s machines were built in 2006, said Terry Burton, director of the county board of elections.. “In the grand scheme of things, when you’re talking about technology,” the systems are almost antiques. Though Burton credits the local board of elections staff with babying the systems to keep them functioning well. “Every election, we see a little bit more wear and tear,” Burton said. “It’s time.” Wood County currently has 575 functional voting machines. Senate Bill 135 is intended to replace all the voting machines in the state – as long as county boards of election are satisfied with the “Chevrolets” and not the “Cadillacs” of voting machines, LaRose said. However, in Wood County, Burton said the $1.3 million from the state will be about $3 million shy of the total expected cost of $4.2 million. “It’s not going to cover it all,” Burton said. “I’ve looked at it all along as a helper. I’m not going to complain about getting $1.3 million.” Wood County Board of Elections doesn’t want the “Cadillac” of voting systems, but it doesn’t want the “Chevrolet” either, Burton said. “We’re looking for the SUV,” he said. “We’re looking for a system that’s hardy.” The total state funding is being divided up among counties based on the number of registered voters and the size of the counties, LaRose said. Wood County Board of Elections has decided to stick with touchscreen systems, not the optical scans. The touchscreens will be larger and will move more like mobile technology, Burton said. The Wood County Commissioners have been prepared for the fact that the board of elections will need additional funding to replace the current voting machines. The costs from vendors will not be available till next month, but Burton said the commissioners are aware it may cost the county about $3 million. “Obviously, we’re going to have a big ask from them,” he said. “We can get a solid system for a number that we can afford,” Burton said. All of the voting machines must be converted over at once, since the current ones are 12 years old. “The systems won’t even talk to each other,” he said. Wood County Board of Elections’ goal is to have the new systems in place for the “manageable” May primary next year. “We want to have it in place for a while before the presidential election,” Burton said. “By the time we hit the primary in 2020, everything’s figured out.” State Senator…

New voting machines come with hefty price tags

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Wood County got its first touchscreen voting machines, many people feared they were too old-fashioned to keep up with the new voting technology. But now, after 11 years of elections, it’s the voting machines themselves that are considered obsolete. Across Ohio, county boards of elections are facing the challenge of replacing their aging voting machines with newer, expensive technology. The price tag to replace Wood County’s touchscreen voting stations is between $3.8 and $4.2 million. Counties and election boards have been working with the state legislature and secretary of state to get help footing the bill. “This is a great need across the state,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “The implications statewide and nationally are incredible.” Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton presented the news to the county commissioners on Tuesday. “He told us the end is in sight and we need to prepare,” Kalmar said. The first touchscreen voting machines were purchased as part of the Help America Vote Act after the infamous “hanging chad” drama in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. The electronic touchscreen systems were purchased to prevent the uncertainty of punchcard voting. The initial touchscreen units cost $1.2 million – with federal funds paying for at least 80 percent of the price, Kalmar said. Kalmar is banking on the legislature helping this time around. The topic has been before the state for a while. “That has been the discussion for the last two years,” Burton said. Heavy duty lobbying is underway to get some money out of the state’s next budget cycle, he said. “Everybody’s equipment is aging out,” Burton said. “We’re not in this alone. We need to lobby the state like heck.” The goal is to roll out the new systems in the May primary in 2019. “That way it’s not a primary election for governor or president,” Kalmar said. Wood County officials are also hoping the next updated systems will function similarly to the current ones. “Now people know what to do,” Kalmar said. Burton agreed. “The voters seem very comfortable with it. Our goal is to mimic the system we have now,” he said. Kalmar praised the board of elections for making the current touchscreen systems last as long as they have. “Our board of elections has been very vigilant in maintaining the equipment they have and keeping it in good working order.” Burton said the Wood County elections office has been able to swap out parts from surplus machines to keep enough units running. The local touchscreen systems are functioning well enough to keep them in use, Burton added, but “we want to transition over when state money becomes available. We want to take advantage of that.” Wood County Board of Elections has 620 electronic touchscreen units, though just 480 are put in use for elections. About 100 were received through a Cuyahoga County elections lawsuit settlement. The county has asked for 508 new ones. Burton hopes the estimated cost around $4 million is more than the actual cost. “I’m hoping this is the high end,” he said.