The Marion County Election Board is holding off on plans to replace all voting machines this year because there’s no money to foot the cost and because its members have a more pressing issue on the horizon. Without money available for a purchase that could cost up to $15 million, Clerk Beth White and two party appointees say they will focus instead on the details needed to pull off a newly mandated centralized count of absentee ballots for the May 6 primary. The three-member board unanimously agreed to table the idea, for now, of soliciting proposals from voting equipment venders. White said the board could revive the issue after the primary. Plans called for any new equipment to be used for the first time in 2015, after this year’s elections.
Unlike the county’s last voting equipment upgrade, in 2003, there’s little prospect this time for the kind of federal help that reimbursed Marion County for most of the $11.1 million cost back then. Marion County has 737 optical scanners and 613 touch-screen machines, and White says some are breaking down regularly.
Indeed, Marion County isn’t alone. A presidential commission today issued a wide-ranging report on voting issues that takes note of the “impending crisis” in voting equipment. It says local jurisdictions lack both money and sufficient new technology options to replace the aging machines they purchased after Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in response to problems that arose during the 2000 election.