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Johnson County to Spend $372K on Voting Machines

The software and equipment, to be purchased from Election Systems & Software LLC, will replace current voting machines about 20 years old.

A demonstration voting machine at the Tarrant County Election Administration displays the screen voters will see after casting their ballot. Early voting begins Monday for the the Nov. 7 constitutional amendment election.
Amanda McCoy/TNS
The Johnson County Commissioners Court approved the purchase of new voting machines and associated software as well as a new copy machine for the purchasing department during its Nov. 27 meeting.

American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money will fund the purchases.

Commissioners noted that the county’s ARPA share — federal funds distributed to governmental entities to cover costs associated with and/or mitigate COVID-19 costs — is now all allocated.

The voting and copy machine costs were already figured into ARPA expenditures pending commissioners' approval, County Auditor Steven Watson said.

The 45 voting machines, software and necessary equipment approved by commissioners carry a hefty price tag of $371,862. The software and equipment, to be purchased from Election Systems & Software LLC, will replace current voting machines about 20 years old.

“We have to replace those old machines due to the state decertifying them,” Johnson County Elections Administrator Patty Bourgeois said. “We have to replace that equipment and be in compliance by 2024.”

The older machines throughout Johnson County and the rest of the state are incompatible with hash verify, a validation check system to ensure that machines have not been tampered with before or after elections, officials said.

The new system will still include a paper trail, County Judge Chris Boedeker said.

The new machines, like the ones they will replace, are designed primarily for handicapped voters but can be used by anyone.

Taking the county to the next level, countywide voting, would require more voting machines, Bourgeois said, adding that Ellis County purchased 350 machines to do so.

The cost for Johnson County to do so totals an estimated $1 million or more. A representative from Election Systems & Software said that several counties have transitioned to countywide voting by purchasing machines over several budget year cycles as opposed to all at once.

Given Johnson County’s population growth, several commissioners said the move to countywide voting needs to be considered in the near future.

Commissioner Rick Bailey expressed reservations.

“If the state wants to send money to buy all those extra machines that's fine,” Bailey said. “But I'm not for going to the taxpayers for those costs. I think we've covered our bases on meeting [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements with what we approved today, and I think we should be fine with that.”

(c)2023 the Cleburne Times-Review. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.