Greene County is looking to buy new voting machines to replace equipment that is 14 years old and starting to fail.
County commissioners recently met with elections board members and Director Llyn McCoy to discuss the options — either stay with direct-recording electronic (touch-screen) machines, switch to optical scanners (paper ballots), or choose the new hybrid systems that combine touch-screen and paper ballots.
The state is providing Greene County approximately $1.7 million to offset costs, which preliminary estimates put at between $2.5 million and $3 million.
“We want the best solution for the voters,” McCoy said.
McCoy and elections board members said they would prefer to stay with the touch-screen machines and to stay with the county’s current vendor — Dominion Voting. At least one hybrid system will have to be installed at every polling location to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but McCoy cautioned against purchasing hybrids for all voters, calling them “the worst of both worlds.”
“You’ve got all the problems of two systems that you have to jockey … I think we need to either go with touch-screen or we need to go paper and not mess with this hybrid thing,” McCoy said.
McCoy said the touch-screen systems the county has now were bought in 2005, and they are starting to break down.
“Where it’s starting to break down is in things you can’t fix any more. The parts aren’t available … If you can’t calibrate it, you can’t fix it,” she said.
Elections Board Chairman John Caupp cautioned against what other counties are choosing to do — go back to paper ballots.
“I’m a firm believer of moving into the 21st century … As we move forward in the future, in my opinion the way we vote will change as time evolves and going back to a paper ballot is not the way we want to take Greene County,” Caupp said.
Next month county officials will be testing different systems and soliciting bids from all the vendors, including Dominion, Election Systems & Software, Clear Ballot Group, Unisyn Voting Solutions and Hart InterCivic.
Built-in to the costs will be disposing of the existing equipment, which will be considered obsolete.
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“This equipment is worthless … It’s not worth anything. You can’t just go out and sell it. You can’t put it on e-Bay. We have to sell it or donate it to another government agency,” McCoy said. “You’re not going to find another government that wants it. Even other countries don’t want this stuff.”
Vendors are not expected to take back the old equipment, and County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said providing a discount to off-set costs for disposing the equipment may be the only competitive edge that vendors can offer.
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