Counties would get nearly $115 million in state money to replace aging voting machines in time for the 2019 election under a bill expected to pass the legislature this spring. Total funding largely matches the estimate of what it would cost to replace all voting machines in Ohio with the lowest cost paper-ballot machines known as optical scan. However, the bill by Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, allows counties to choose their own machines, whether they involve paper, more-expensive touch-screen machines known as DREs, or hybrid models. Franklin County could receive up to $13 million from the bill. The county Board of Elections plans to pick new voting machines by August, said spokesman Aaron Sellers. The board has estimated that new machines would cost $16 million to $30 million, depending on the type chosen. Franklin County has 4,735 voting machines now, and the board estimates it would purchase close to 5,000 if it goes with a similar system, Sellers said.
Counties would get an initial lump-sum payment of between $205,000 and $406,000 to help with start-up costs. Remaining funds would be distributed to each county on a per-voter basis.
“We cannot allow Ohio’s future elections to be compromised due to failing voting machines,” said LaRose, who is running for secretary of state. “This issue needs to be addressed now before major technical issues disrupt the integrity of our elections.”
The goal is to to get new machines running in time for the smaller-turnout 2019 elections. State and local officials say they don’t want counties trying out new machines for the first time in the heavy 2020 presidential election.