Ohio’s elections chief wants counties to modernize their voting machines before the 2020 presidential election, and he’s urging the governor and state lawmakers to foot much of the bill. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich, his budget director and state legislative leaders on Thursday seeking $118 million in state capital funds for the project. “While I am confident that the storage, maintenance and operating procedures used by the boards of elections will ensure that these systems remain secure and accurate through the 2018 election cycle, Ohio’s leaders must act soon to ensure an orderly transition to newer equipment well before the 2020 presidential general election,” he wrote. Ohio is a bellwether political state with about 7.9 million registered voters. Donald Trump, a Republican, won the state’s 2016 presidential contest against Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, by 447,000 votes, more than 8 percentage points.
Husted said the $118 million would cover 100 percent of the “lowest estimated cost” for new equipment: optical scan machines his office’s review found to cost least among state and federally certified machines.
Counties that wanted to buy more expensive equipment — say, with the most digital bells and whistles — would need to cover the difference with local funds. Those few counties that have already upgraded could be reimbursed for those expenses up to the lowest estimated cost figure, Husted said.
Husted, a candidate for lieutenant governor, called the plan forward-looking, cost-effective and fair to counties that need help funding the improved technology.