Miami County Board of Elections officials cannot agree on new voting machines. The county has used touch screen devices for years, but one option under consideration now is a paper system, like the one shown here in Clark County, in which voters fill in ovals and put their ballot into a scanner to be counted. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Miami County deadlocked on new voting machines

“I really don’t give a damn what they want,” Chairman David Fisher, a Democrat, said this week during another board discussion on options to replace the county’s touch-screen voting system purchased in 2005.

Elections board members agreed after around 75 minutes of debate – but no formal vote — that it is deadlocked 2 to 2 on a Clear Ballot paper voting system and a hybrid system offered by ES&S. The paper system has the voter fill out by hand a paper ballot that is scanned, while the hybrid system uses a touch screen to mark the ballot that is printed onto paper and scanned.

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The board has looked at options ranging from around $500,000 to more than $1.8 million.

The commissioners last week told election board member Ryan King, a Republican, and director Bev Kendall they would be willing to subsidize the $1,096,490 the state has allocated for a new system.

In the followup letter the board received Tuesday, the commissioners said they “are adamant that our voting process does not go backwards to a paper ballot system.” The board further said it strongly recommended the purchase of a hybrid system that has a cost estimate of nearly $1.9 million.

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Fisher and fellow Democrat Audrey Gillespie indicated support for the paper system, while King and fellow Republican Rob Long said a hybrid system was the best choice.

Gillespie said she personally liked a hybrid system but added she believed it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to spend another $750,000 for a hybrid system when a paper system would meet needs. The $750,000 would be better spent elsewhere, she said.

Fisher called the hybrid system set up “no more than an electronic three quarter of a million dollar marking device.”

King said a return to a paper voting system after county voters have used the touch screen system for more than a dozen years makes no sense.

“Nothing in this world went back to paper,” he said.

King said a county information technology staff member who saw vendor presentations during the past year favored a hybrid system.

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King also pointed out a secretary of state’s representative Tuesday encouraged the board to “put the brakes” on a decision until state purchasing prices on equipment options are available to all counties.

Fisher, who has said elections boards have kicked a decision on equipment down the road too long, said he hopes the board can make a decision soon.

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