Across Ohio, counties are coming up with innovative ways to repair the state’s aging voting machines, which would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace. In Darke County, an elections worker bought small springs from a farm supply store that he used to hold together a flap on voting machines. In Montgomery County, spare parts are cannibalized from dead machines and pirated from other counties to keep units limping along. And in Clark County, maintenance costs keep climbing on machines built long before anyone held an iPhone. “It’s time for a replacement,” said state Sen. Frank LaRose, a Hudson Republican who is sponsoring a bill that will spend somewhere between $90 million and $118 million on new voting machines for all 88 Ohio counties.
Ohio purchased most of the current voting machines in 2005 and 2006 with nearly $115 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. HAVA passed after the 2000 presidential election exposed the critical need for upgrades.
The 2,300 touch-screen voting machines used in Montgomery County were built in 2003 using “technology from the Blackberry days,” said Jan Kelly, Board of Elections director.
“We’ve been able to recycle parts from old machines onto existing machines, but we’re running out of those parts,” she said. “We’re at the end of the life.”