Nine years after switching from paper ballots to electronic touch-screen voting, the Mahoning County Board of Elections plans to return to paper for the November general election. The new, more sophisticated system will have voters complete a paper ballot and feed it into an optical-scanner machine.
The machine would keep track of the vote totals with the paper ballot dropped into a sealed box. State law requires all ballots have paper backups. It would cost $684,000 to buy the new machines from Election Systems & Software, the same company that sold the electronic voting machines to the county, said Joyce Kale Pesta, the board’s deputy director.
The county may not have the money to purchase the machines so leasing them is an option that would cost less than $100,000 a year, she said.
Board officials need to speak to county commissioners about buy and lease options, Kale Pesta said. The county likely wouldn’t have to pay for the lease or purchase until January 2012, she said.
The need to replace the county’s current voting machines is great, Kale Pesta said. “I don’t believe these machines can make it through a presidential election” in 2012, when voters turn out in large numbers, she said.
Of the 1,100 electronic voting machines the board of elections currently has, about 200 no longer work; several others have problems, Kale Pesta said. “We wouldn’t have enough working machines for the election,” said Robert Wasko, the board’s chairman.
Also, ES&S no longer makes or repairs the voting machines used by the county, Kale Pesta said. Most of the machines were purchased in 2002 from ES&S for $2.95 million.