County Clerk Debbie Door

Franklin County voters may use new equipment to cast ballots when they go to the polls in the next election.

The county commission recently voted to seek bids on new voting equipment, which could cost around $400,000.

The new equipment should make it easier for election officials and voters when it comes to handicap-accessible voting, County Clerk Debbie Door said.

Paying for the new equipment is still a moving target, but Door said the county’s election services fund and the Help America Vote Act fund will help with the cost.

Money in the election services fund comes from the 5 percent fee that the county charges the different government entities for conducting the elections.

The HAVA fund gets its money from the election equipment rental fee that the county charges the entities.

Between the HAVA and election services funds there is a total of about $150,000, Door said.

The other approximately $250,000 to pay for the equipment could come from a variety of sources, such as the county’s general fund.

Also, Door said the federal government may assist with the cost.

The vendor that provides the new equipment may also buy the county’s old equipment to help cover the cost.

The vendor that supplied the county’s current equipment, Henry M. Adkins & Sons of Clinton, may buy back the county’s old equipment for $40,000, Door said.

It is critical that the county go ahead and get the new equipment this year because the costs of the machines keep going up, and the vendors will not offer the buyback in the future, she added.

Moreover, Door said she wants to go ahead and get the equipment so she can be ready for state and federal legislative changes regarding voting equipment.

The county currently has handicap-accessible voting equipment, but the new machines would be designed differently, Door noted.

Oct. 1 is the deadline for vendors to submit bids on the 57 optical scan voting units and any other associated equipment.

Voters will not notice a big difference in the equipment, Door said. Voters without disabilities will still fill in a paper ballot with a marker and put it into the optical scan reader.

But instead of having a separate machine for handicapped voters there will be one unit that all voters, whether they are handicapped or not, use, Door said.

This will make it easier for election judges who will no longer have to set up the cumbersome handicap-accessible equipment, she said. It should also make it easier for handicapped voters, she said.

The county has had its current election equipment since around 2005, Door said. She said the equipment was not developed for long-term use and that there have been some maintenance problems crop up.

Since the original equipment was developed, the companies have been doing more research, such as how to make voting more secure, she said.

The new equipment should be in place for the municipal election in April.

Door usually sets up the handicap-accessible voting equipment during elections even though it is only required for state and federal races. However, she said she did not set it up at the last municipal election. That’s because she did not want to charge the entities the rental fee for using the equipment.

The absence of the equipment did not preclude certain voters from participating in the elections, she said, noting that there are other ways to accommodate those with special needs, such as curbside voting and absentee ballots.