XENIA — Greene County voters may be casting their ballots on new voting machines in the next presidential election.
The current machines, which have been in use since November 2006, are starting to have issues but are still in good shape, according to Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy.
“It has been exaggerated … that it is falling apart and we can’t use it. We are starting to have issues with it but we are not to the point where we cannot use it,” McCoy said at a joint work session with the Board of Commissioners in May.
According to McCoy at the time, the machines could last through 2018. Ideally, new equipment would be in place by 2019, allowing a block of time for adjustment before the presidential election in 2020.
McCoy issued a Statement of Need, required by the Secretary of State, in June for equipment estimated at a total of $5.5 million.
During the regular Board of Commissioners meeting June 22, the commissioners approved a voucher to set aside $2 million of funds for the equipment.
It is possible the state could agree to cover 80 percent of the total cost — but ultimately that number could be higher or lower.
Once the reimbursement rate is set, the commissioners will know if $2 million is enough or if they’ll need to save more, County Administrator Brandon Huddleson explained.
“We’re afraid that they could be way lower than that and put the burden on us,” he said. “But we have been forward thinking about our budget and put away half a million dollars every year for four years. A lot of counties haven’t been able to do that. With budget cuts … people aren’t going to be able to afford those machines.”
The biggest concern now is the constant change in technology.
Currently, Greene County uses direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. This electronic equipment involves buttons or touchscreen and processes data with a computer program.
“Our county likes DRE equipment, it works well for us. Our office is set up to store that equipment,” McCoy said.
All of the current state-approved machines involve paper-based ballots. No DREs are currently certified.
Reportedly, this has been driven by public input, including a lack of trust with DREs and the thought that votes could be manipulated.
But, according to McCoy, she sees paper ballots as a step backwards.
“By and large our voters prefer touch screens,” she said.
She added that the only time errors are found is when paper ballots are in use.
“We have looked at all the paper-based equipment,” McCoy continued. “Right now there’s just nothing out there we really feel meets Greene County’s needs.”
McCoy and the commissioners agreed that they would take their time to finalize decisions, especially when there is a push now to try to get DREs certified by the state.
“We don’t want to buy a piece of equipment now and then in two years need something different,” Glaser said.