Frederick County to use new voting machines in June

Frederick County voters can expect to use new machines at the polls beginning with primaries next month.

The Voter Registrar’s Office plans to put into place its optical scan machines in time for the June 13 Democratic and Republican Party primaries. The county joins other localities in using the machines that replace the touch-screen devices. Virginia has banned the touch-screen devices and localities must replace their equipment by 2020.

General Registrar of Voters Rick Miller announced the county’s implementation of the machines Tuesday.

“We had the touch screens for like 13 years, OK, so this is a whole new ball game for the voters,” Miller said. “That’s why we want to get the word out to them as much as possible.”

The county bought 60 of the optical scan machines at a cost of approximately $286,000, Miller said. The machines were received in early April and the registrar’s office has trained the chief election officials and their assistants on the devices, Miller said. The office plans to train all poll workers on the machines this Saturday.

Voters at the polls will receive a paper ballot on which they mark their choices, Miller explained. Each precinct’s polling place comes equipped with individual privacy booths on tables at which each voter can mark their ballot. Voters insert the completed ballot into the optical-scan machine, which reads the choices. The machine deposits the ballots in a secure bin. The device tabulates the voting results after the polls close.

Frederick County still used the touch-screen devices during the November 2016 general election. The county registrar said his office received no reports of problems with the touch-screen machines.

“It was just, basically we’re replacing them due to the General Assembly mandate that as of a certain date they are de-certified and can’t be used so we were proactive to get it done,” Miller said.

Warren County started using the optical scanners for the central absentee precinct in 2012. The county bought two scanners for that year, General Registrar Carol Tobin said Tuesday. The county went to scanners in all other precincts in May 2015, bringing the total number of devices to 21, which includes a few spare machines. The county also bought 16 ballot-marking machines compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act for each precinct.

Shenandoah County purchased optical-scan machines last year, General Registrar Lisa McDonald said Tuesday. The county put the machines in use in time for the town elections in May 2016 and the Republican Party primary the following month as well as the general election in November.

Shenandoah County used its touch-screen machines well beyond their 10-year life expectancy, McDonald said. The county put money aside in its capital improvements program budget to cover the cost to replace the machines, she noted.

“They knew they were going to have to get the machines anyway and then this law changed in the midst of it, so the timing actually was good,” McDonald said. “We really like these new machines … They’re user friendly.

“At the end of the night, they save a lot of time for our election officials and we tried to make our forms more efficient, too,” McDonald added.