Henderson County commissioners thought they were looking at roughly $1 million to comply with a state law requiring the Board of Elections to switch to paper ballots. The estimated cost of replacing its current touchscreen machines has now jumped to $3 million. During a discussion of the unfunded mandate earlier this month, a majority of commissioners said they nonetheless want to hold off on setting aside any money for new voting machines in the coming 2015-16 fiscal year. “I would just say to you that this is a moving target,” advised County Manager Steve Wyatt. “I have no confidence in these numbers; I had no confidence in the previous numbers. What I am confident is right now, the law says you’ve got to change the machines.”
Beginning in 2018, all North Carolina counties will have to use machines that produce paper ballots so voters can verify their choices before they’re scanned for tabulation. Currently, Henderson County has 300 touchscreen machines that create a paper record, but do not spit out a ballot.
Those machines were purchased using federal funds made available to counties in 2006 through the Help America Vote Act. Now the county must foot the bill to replace them, and only one vendor, Election Systems & Software, is certified to sell voting machines that would meet the state requirements.