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Jefferson County to get new voting machines

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County will get $807,528 for new voting machines as part of a recently approved bill in the state Legislature.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham, a board of director’s member of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said the association lobbied hard to get voting machine money provided to counties.

The Legislature approved $114.5 million statewide for new mandated voting equipment.

“It is good news for Jefferson County,” he said. “It may not be enough, but it is a good chunk — about 85 percent. I’m glad the (commissioners association) was able to advocate for something to benefit all the counties. There was a time when the state wasn’t going to pay anything. We definitely need the money for this expensive equipment.”

He said the Ohio Department of Administrative Services will negotiate state pricing with vendors of the voting equipment.

Diane Gribble, county board of elections director, said the board has decided to go with a paper ballot with optical-scanning machines. A voter will use a pen to fill in the circle beside a candidate’s name.

When the ballot is complete, the voter puts the ballot into a scanner, and the scanner will inform the voter of any missed items on the ballot or if he or she voted for more candidates than stated. The voter can withdraw the paper ballot and make changes or can select submit, and the ballot will be scanned and the results tallied into a thumb drive. The ballot then is dropped into a ballot box. The thumb drives will be brought to the board of elections to be tallied for results.

Gribble said the current touchscreen voting machines were purchased in 2005. She said there are more than 400 machines that have to be delivered to each of the county’s 71 precincts and then returned and stored at the board’s office.

With the paper ballots, only a couple of scanners will be purchased for each precinct.

Gribble said the initial cost of the scanners will be less than the touchscreen machines, but the county will have the extra expense of printing more than 50,000 ballots for countywide elections.

“There will be less equipment to deal with,” she said.

Gribble said Belmont and Harrison counties already have switched to paper ballots and scanners.

The county also will have to purchase new voting booths, she said.

Vendors will be coming to the board of elections in the near future to provide demonstrations of the scanners.

Gribble said the chosen vendor will have the responsibility of destroying the old touchscreen machines.

She said she hopes to have the paper ballots and scanners ready for the May primary election, but that depends on how fast the state moves in selecting vendors.

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