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Commissioners OK voting machine purchase

LISBON — Columbiana County voters at the next general election will find new scanning machines at their polling place as the county prepares to upgrade.

County commissioners on Wednesday took the next steps toward the board of elections ordering new equipment through Election Systems and Software LLC by approving the lease contract. The money for the new equipment is coming through state funding set aside for the purchase of new equipment.

Elections board director Kim Fusco said the board looked at two companies and liked them both. Each county in the state was given a certain amount based on the number of registered voters it has. Columbiana County was allotted about $1,018,717.

With $844,655 of that money, Fusco said the county will upgrade 80 precinct scanners and tabulators with newer models, purchase 70 handicapped ExpressVote machines, a ballot on demand printing machine and a new high-speed scanner and tabulator for counting all the votes at the end of election night. The remaining $174,062 will be used in the next couple of years when it is determined if any additional equipment needed.

Although there have not been any major problems with the current equipment and it is checked before every election, Fusco said it is 15 years old. At times a machine will go down and have to be swapped out on election day.

“We are happy that the state gave us this money to do this,” Fusco said, adding “This will be to the betterment of this community.”

Fusco believes the machines will be in place for the general election and there will be plenty of time to train poll workers about how to utilize them.

Voters may not notice much of a difference. There will still be paper ballots where voters to fill out the circles. The machine where the ballot is scanned after the voter finishes will look somewhat different, but still perform the same way as the old ones.

The ExpressVote machines will give those without the ability to vote in the traditional way due to a disability, an option using a touchscreen and audio controls. In the end, a paper copy will be printed for that voter to check for errors before it is scanned in to be tabulated.

The Ballots on Demand printing system will allow ballots to be printed at the board of elections when voters come to complete early voting there. Because there will be a way to print additional ballots, Fusco said it should cut down on the waste of printing so many extra ballots before the election, many of which do not get used. The board of elections always prints more ballots than the number of registered voters for each precinct.

Now that the purchase has been approved by the commissioners, Fusco said there are a couple of more steps she plans to complete before the upcoming meeting of the board of elections on Friday.

djohnson@mojonews.com

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