Wednesday, December 19, 2018 Medina 24°
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Ohio Senate bill would help pay for voting machines

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MEDINA — Senate Bill 135, which will implement a voting machine acquisition program statewide, is awaiting Gov. John R. Kasich’s signature.

“It went to the governor’s desk (Tuesday),” state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, said.

Hambley, a co-sponsor of S.B. 135, said all indications are that the governor will sign it.

“There’s been overwhelming support for it,” he said. “There’s been no saber rattling.”

Hambley said the governor normally will let legislators know if he has a problem with a particular bill.

He said the state’s voting machines, especially in Medina County, are outdated.

“They need to be replaced,” Hambley said.

Pam Miller, chair of the Medina County Board of Elections, said the board will meet soon to consider voting machines.

“We have some demos to look at,” she said. “We hope to make a decision by the end of the year.”

Ideally, Miller said, she hopes to have new voting machines up and running in time for the November 2019 general election. It’s a state mandate that the machines be ready for the 2020 presidential election.

“We’re still looking at different possibilities,” Miller said. “We’re looking at all of our options.”

The county is using TSX touch-screen voting machines that are 13 years old, elections board Director Carol Lawler said.

“They are reaching near the end of their life,” she said. “We’ve maintained them well. We can’t get parts for them any more. Things have become obsolete. My staff has kept things going.”

Several counties, including Cuyahoga and Summit, are switching to paper ballots to prevent hacking. That remains an option for Medina County, Miller said.

“Homeland Security checked out our system,” she said. “We have strong firewalls and had no issues. The board of elections is concerned with security. We work to be as secure as possible.”

County Administrator Scott Miller said preliminary talks with the state in 2016 said counties were told they might have to share 15 percent to 20 percent of the costs for new machines, which could have totaled up to $1.2 million. Counties were scrambling to figure out ways to come up with the funds.

“The state will pick up the cost,” Scott Miller said, if Kasich signs S.B. 135. “I don’t know what that means yet to Medina County. It’s not been decided yet (how much each county would receive).”

A state committee will be established to advise Secretary of the State Jon Husted and the Department of Administrative Services, or DAS, with the acquisition and funding of new voting systems. The DAS specializes in support and innovative solutions to state agencies and governments.

“They will negotiate contracts with voting machine vendors,” Lawler said.

State Rep. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, introduced the bill.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, a candidate for secretary of the state, applauded the bill that would invest more than $100 million in state funds for voting machines.

“Ohio has been in desperate need of voting system upgrades to meet the elections cybersecurity challenges we face today and to modernize our aging machinery,” she said in a statement.

She said some counties turned to eBay to find parts for their outdated voting machines.

Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.


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