Orange County’s voting equipment is undergoing a $1.5 million upgrade aimed at modernizing the system, making the ballot-counting faster and improving access for disabled voters. The County Commission on Tuesday is expected to authorize spending about $1.35 million on the project in the current fiscal year. The remainder was spent last year. Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said he had hoped to have the new system up and running in time for this spring’s municipal elections, but that timetable didn’t work out because an element of the system has yet to be certified by the state. If all goes according to plan, Cowles now hopes it will be in place for the presidential preference primary slated for March 1, 2016. One key change will be to do away with land lines for transmitting results. “We want to upgrade them from land line to wireless modeming on election night because more and more facilities are getting away from land lines,” he said. “The trade off is, I don’t have to put land lines into the polling places. “Savings will come in not having to install land lines in the future.” The new system also will include vote-counting machines.
Cowles noted that in 2014, more people voted early or absentee than went to the polls on Election Day. “As we see the trend of more people voting by mail, they have created a new high-speed counter for absentee ballots,” Cowles said.
The counters will also use digital scanning, meaning they will be better able to review write-in ballots, he added.
The third major change is to allow some disabled voters, who previously were limited to voting via touch screen, to use paper ballots.