Since Mississippi required electronic voting machines in 2006 to meet a federal mandate, all the state’s precincts have used approved equipment. For most of Mississippi’s 82 counties that meant the touch-screen machines the secretary of state’s office got at a bulk discount to comply with the Help America Vote Act. Counties wanting federal money to buy electronic machines had no options.
Now the financial costs assessed with operating touch-screen machines and concerns over contested elections have led officials in one county to ditch those machines and those in another to consider doing the same – both in favor of electronic paper ballot scanning machines . Even before the state mandate, Rankin County had opted for touch-screen machines. It has used them since the November 2003 general election. But District 5 Supervisor Jay Bishop said the system should be re-examined.
Supervisors last month cut the annual maintenance contract for the county’s touch-screen machines from roughly $57,000 to $47,000. But Bishop says, “If we were to go and put (paper ballot) scanners in, that would knock costs down to around $10,000 a year.
“It’s not a perfect system,” he said. “But given the expense we have to put out for each election and the maintenance cost for those terminals, the scanners could be a better option.”
As the county’s machines become older, Bishop said the maintenance costs also could climb.
Bishop said the cost for replacing most of the current terminals would run around $300,000. “I believe we would save money in the long run,” he said.