After the Bush-Gore debacle in 2000, Florida became proactive. Punch cards and hanging chads were replaced with optical scanners.
But that was 15 years ago, and those new optical scanners are now old technology. “It’s an area of concern,” said Highlands County Elections Supervisor Penny Ogg. Her office has kept maintenance agreements. “They get a yearly going over by the vendor,” Ogg said.
Nevertheless, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has placed Highlands in a 30-county mix for voting machine replacements. A 12-county coalition with 14-year-old machines has asked for grants from the Department of State, and they’re asking the state with its greater purchasing power to buy the machines.
“We are in contract talks now,” Ogg said. If the deal is struck, Highlands County would replace all 55 optical scanners for about $300,000. “We’re staying with optical scanners,” Ogg said. “You have a paper trail. You can go back and put your hands on the ballot.”
Even if every optical scanner in the county malfunctioned, those old-school ballots could still be counted by hand. “We would be good to go before the 2016 elections,” Ogg said. Election season starts on March 15 with the presidential primary.