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James City buys new voting machines

jojacobs@vagazette.com

James City County will spend $280,000 to replace its existing voting machine inventory. The new voting machines are expected to be ready in time for November elections.

The county’s voting machines, which were purchased in the late 1990s, have reached the end of their useful life and replacement parts have become expensive or are unavailable, James City general registrar Dianna Moorman said.

“The equipment has been outdated by the vendor,” Moorman said.

Moorman expects the 60 new machines to arrive in the county by Aug. 15. The machines will be tested and elections officers will be trained to use them soon after delivery. The county expects to have the devices ready to go by September for absentee voters for the November elections. The machines also will be used in the November elections.

All machines are expected to used one fell swoop, rather than phasing them into use in stages.

“It’s in order to be fair across the board,” she said.

Introducing new machines at this time also ensures familiarity with them well before the 2020 presidential elections, Moorman said. She declined to identify the model of the new voting machines as a security precaution.

For voters, the new voting machines won’t affect their Election Day routines.

Voters will still fill out paper ballots and feed them into the machines to tally votes. The machines won’t be connected to the internet, Moorman said.

For elections officials, the new voting machines will make their Election Day routines a tad easier.

One perk of the new machines is they are able to read and record write-in ballots. Currently, election officers have to record those manually. As such, the new machines will save time counting votes and provide results earlier on Election Day, Moorman said.

“That’s a huge plus,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

The new machines will also be smaller, making storage and transportation easier, Moorman said.

Along with new machines, there may be new ballots for James City voters. County officials are weighing adoption of a new ballot, its new feature being that instructions are placed in a left-hand column of the ballot rather than across the top of the ballot, which is supposed to make them easier to read. The county will determine whether it will adopt the new ballots by September, Moorman said.

The county’s current machines will be either traded-in or sold as surplus to other localities, Moorman said. The $280,000 for the new machines is included in the county’s fiscal year 2019 budget, which the Board of Supervisors approved May 8.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

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