ELYRIA — County voters likely will be casting ballots on new equipment when the May primary election rolls around, after the county commissioners approved spending $1.7 million to purchase new voting machines.
Last week, the Board of Elections approved the purchase of the new machines. On Wednesday, the commissioners unanimously voted in favor of it and authorized the purchase of the new equipment.
The new machines are made by ES&S and are considered hybrid voting machines. The new machines will allow residents to vote via a touchscreen, but then will print a paper ballot that needs to be scanned in order for the ballot to be cast.
Board of Elections Director Paul Adams explained to the commissioners how the new system would work for voters.
The voter will sign in at the poll book and receive a blank ballot card with his or her precinct information. The voter then will go to the voting unit and insert his or her ballot card.
The voter will then select his or her choices for the election, and then the ballot is printed with the voter’s selections. The voter will remove the card from the unit and can review the ballot.
The card is then inserted into a scanner by the voter and the ballot is counted.
Adams said the Board of Elections chose the hybrid system over a paper system for several reasons, including accuracy, bilingual requirements for the county, cost and comfort for voters.
The hybrid system will help avoid possible errors by poll workers who could pull the wrong ballot for a voter. The system also allows the county to avoid printing a mandatory number of ballots so it has enough for the possibility of larger-than-expected voter turnout. He also said county voters have become comfortable with touchscreen systems, which the county has used since 2005.
Adams said the county only has 1,094 functional voting units of its current system, which isn’t enough to open all polling locations in the county. In order for all polling locations to be open, the Board of Elections needs 1,120 units, Adams said.
The price tag for the new system is $4.5 million, to be paid in 2019. The state will provide $2.8 million in funding, which means the county is responsible for the remaining $1.7 million.
The Board of Elections hopes to have the new system operational by the May primary.
“One of the reasons we’re looking to do that is, for election administration purposes, it makes sense to implement this in a smaller election,” Adams said. “Usually municipal election years, such as the one we are heading into, in the primary election the entire county is not open. Usually there are large areas of the county that are not open. This will allow us to open it up in a handful of places around the county that are open and then in November move to a full countywide election.”
Having it operational in 2019 also will give election officials and voters the opportunity to get used to the changes prior to 2020’s presidential election, Adams said.