Wait for new voting machines continues

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Carroll County may be waiting on new voting machines for longer than expected.

The Carroll County Election Commission spoke with state Reps. Bob Ballinger and Ron McNair at its meeting on Thursday, April 13, to discuss changes made during the 2017 session of the Arkansas legislature that could impact election operations.

Commission chairman David Hoover said the most pressing issue is when Carroll County will receive new voting machines from the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office. Although the legislature is meeting again in May, Ballinger said the issue will likely not be resolved this spring.

Part of the holdup, he said, is that a compromise on the bill has ended up tying the issue of updating voting machines across the state with the issue of special elections.

“The idea is moving all special elections, ending them and putting them only on primary and general elections,” Ballinger said. “It’s a big hassle, but not nearly as much of a hassle if you have new voting machines.”

He continued, “The compromise ties those things together. That was the bill that ended up on the House floor. We will move special elections when the money is there, which should help create incentive to get the money for the new voting machines.”

Ballinger said his hope is that both of those issues can be resolved together.

“I think there’s no doubt that we will not be spending too many more election cycles without the new voting machines,” he said. “We will probably set aside some funds for needy counties to get grants and do it piecemeal instead of $40 million all at once, which is what they say it will cost to update the state.”

County clerk Jamie Correia said it will cost about $251,000 for Carroll County to purchase new voting machines and accessories, plus shipping and handling. She said she hopes the machines are updated sooner rather than later because the county’s machines are becoming obsolete.

“They are eliminating certain parts, so we can’t even replace some of the stuff anymore,” she said. “If we can’t get those parts, we’re out of luck. I don’t want to go back after we’ve gone forward.”

Hoover said the county was told the machines would last for seven to eight years.

“We’re on year 10, going on 11 now,” he said. “We’ve had failures reported for some of our voting machines.”

Ballinger also said the legislature passed Act 910, which changes the dates of the annual school election. According to Act 910, annual school elections must now be held on the same date as either preferential primary elections or general elections.

“That will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018,” he said. “My guess is that most schools will go with the primary date.”

The commission also discussed Eureka Springs’ upcoming special election to renew a voluntary tax for the Parks and Recreation Department. Hoover said the election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 13, and will be for Eureka Springs Wards 1, 2 and 3.

Election coordinator Sherry Cochrane said early voting will be from Monday, June 5, through Monday, June 12. New voters need to register by Monday, May 15, to vote in the election, she said, and voter transfers must be made by Friday, June 9.

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