A bill that would provide nearly $115 million to counties to help upgrade aging voting equipment, reimburse election boards for more recent machine purchases and set up a unified purchasing and leasing program through the Secretary of State passed a Statehouse panel Wednesday.
The measure approved by the House Finance Committee already passed the Ohio Senate. It is in limbo for when the full House will take up the issue. House members must first elect a new speaker for legislation to move forward.
The 2,300 touch-screen voting machines used by Montgomery County were built in 2003 using “technology from the Blackberry days,” said Jan Kelly, Board of Elections director.
“We’ve been able to recycle parts from old machines onto existing machines, but we’re running out of those parts,” she said earlier this year. “We’re at the end of the life.”
The amount each county would receive will be allocated based on the number of registered voters, according to the bill introduced by state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson.
Elections officials in Clark County say it could cost roughly $1.2 million to replace current equipment; in Montgomery County, $8 million.
The Montgomery County board calculates it will receive about $4.2 to $4.5 million depending on the final allocation approved by lawmakers, said Steve Harsman, deputy director.
State law currently requires one voting machine per 175 registered voters. There are about 362,000 voters registered in Montgomery County, which deployed 2,142 machines at 173 different locations during the recent primary election, according to the elections board.
Ohio purchased most of the current voting machines in 2005 and 2006 with nearly $115 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. HAVA passed after the 2000 presidential election exposed a critical need for upgrades.