New voting equipment sets Washington County, Virginia, back more than $100,000

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA (WJHL)- We are less than two weeks away from general elections and many counties in southwest Virginia are still adjusting to the state’s new form of voting.

In September, Virginia’s Board of Elections decertified touch screen machines, which caused dozens of cities and counties in Virginia to seek new voting equipment in a short amount of time.

Blakley Morris, deputy director of elections of Washington County Elections and Voter Registrations office said this will be the first time in more than 40 years that voters will cast their vote on a paper ballot.

“The state decertified the current machines that we had and they required us to change over to an optical scan ballot machine by this election,” Morris said.

Morris said this change has cost Washington County, Virginia, about $185,000 to replace outdated machines with brand new machines certified by the state.

“It was not planned in the county’s budget for the current fiscal year and they did have to come up with the money very quickly for us to do it,” Morris explained.

The money funded by the county was used to purchase 22 optical scanners for Washington County, scanners that will read the paper ballots and document each vote.

This new form of voting will allow the Washington County Elections and Voter Registrations Office to keep each voter’s paper ballot, which will allow officials to recount votes, if a recount was ever necessary.

It’s an adjustment Charlotte Mullins of Abingdon said makes her uncomfortable.

“I wasn’t real happy about it because I liked the computer ones better, there is just a little bit too much access to the paper ballot itself,” Mullins said. “I think maybe you don’t have as much access but I feel more secure with the computers.”

Washington County is just one of many counties that faced this voting expense, Dickenson, Scott and Wise County also spent thousands of dollars on new voting equipment for this year’s election.

General Registrar Allison Robbins of Wise County Voter Registration Office said they purchased 15 new machines for this year’s elections, a cost of about $165,000.

Assistant Registrar Kayla Deel of Dickenson County said they purchased 10 new machines a cost of about $125,000, which included a boxed trailer to transport the machines to each voting site.

Registrar Mike Edwards of Scott County said this is not the first year the county will use this method of voting. Scott County switched to paper ballots with optical scanners in 2016, by purchasing 25 new machines for about $200,000.

Mullins said she thinks that money should have gone toward other resources in Washington County.

“I just think it was an unnecessary expense to our localities and to our taxpayers when we have school systems and other who need the money much worse,” Mullins said.

Officials with the Washington County, Virginia, Elections and Voter Registrations Office said this will speed up the voting process, by allowing more people to vote at one time.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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