The Callaway County Commission and County Clerk Denise Hubbard met with sales associates from Springfield-based Elkins-Swyers Company to learn about options for new voting machines. Hubbard said the current voting machines are at least 10 years old, and the most common glitch is with the piece that rolls ballots into the machine’s hub for storage. She added that piece of equipment can sometimes be fixed internally, but when the issue is more complex, the machine has to be shipped to Springfield for repairs. Clerk employees use Windows 98 on election nights. Cory Nibert, a sales associate with Elkins-Swyers, said the current machines have not yet been phased out, but parts are becoming more expensive. He and his co-worker, Steve Byers, brought a new voting machine inside the Commission’s office Thursday for demonstration. Hubbard told the commission she wanted to give them an idea of what’s available. “(The system) is very similar to what we use now. It’s just a little more computerized, maybe,” Hubbard said. “It’s a little easier, a little smoother. It’s going to cut down on man hours.”
Elkins-Swyers’ new machines, created by Dominion Voting, double as ballot submission boxes and voting stations for the illiterate or blind, meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Those with reading or sight issues have utilized Direct Recording Electronic, touch-screen, voting systems for years. This means the county places two machines — one standard and one touch-screen — at each of its 28 precincts, making for 56 machines. Hubbard said the county has four standard back ups. If the commission goes with the machine showcased, they will essentially cut their amount of machines in half.
Doc Kritzer, Western District Commissioner, said the commission had no plans to replace voting machines this year and didn’t budget for the expenditure, which would total to $168,500 if the commission made the purchase in 2015. That figure accounts for the machines and first-year maintenance fees.
“The equipment we’ve got is working,” Kritzer said. “We don’t have but the one election coming up. And, you’ve got to four (elections) next year, but they’re all probably dependable enough to get through next year’s election.”
A problem could present itself in 2016 with a potential overlap between the March and April elections. The state legislature voted to move the presidential preference primary from February to March next year. That shortens the time between the March 15 and April 5 elections to three weeks. Nibert said current machines will need new memory packs for those elections. Programming for memory packs takes six weeks and the county may need to buy two sets of memory packs — 56 total — for the two elections because they are so close together. A memory pack costs between $600-$800. Batteries in the current machines are also in need of replacement, and one costs $75.