An Ohio Senate bill giving the secretary of state the authority to request up to $114.5 million in state funds for the individual counties to upgrade to the next generation of voting equipment only waits on Governor John Kasich’s signature to become law.
The timing of the funds is advanced enough to allow counties the chance to have personnel trained and the bugs worked before the 2020 presidential election.
Senate Bill 135, sponsored by Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson), received concurrence Wednesday from the Senate after passing the House Thursday, June 7 with a vote of 87-0. The bill was co-sponsored by both Delaware County representatives Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township (68th District) and Andrew Brenner, R-Powell (67th District).
The bill, introduced in the Senate, was passed by Senators 32-1 on April 11. The single vote against the bill was cast by Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander.
“With today’s concurrence vote in the Ohio Senate, Senate Bill 135 has cleared its final legislative checkpoint and is now headed for the Governor’s desk. I commend Senate President Obhof, Speaker Smith, and Senator LaRose for their leadership on this matter and for working to ensure that Ohio’s 88 counties have new election technology in place well ahead of the 2020 Presidential Election,” said Secretary of State Jon Husted Wednesday after the concurrence was granted by the Senate.
“I look forward to working with the county boards to purchase and implement new voting machines once the Governor signs this legislation,” Husted added.
The bill authorizes the secretary of state the ability to request up to $104.5 million in funds from the state’s Office of Budget and Management for reimbursement to counties who purchase election equipment. Each county will be given a base amount pending on the total number of registered voters to help with the cost of the new equipment.
The bill’s formula for allocations to the counties: 0-19,999 registered voters will be given the base amount of $205,000; those with 20,000-99,999 registered voters will be given the base amount of $250,000; counties with 100,000 or more registered voters will be given $406,000.
The bill also allows the appropriation of up to $10 million from the state’s general revenue fund for reimbursement to counties who had purchased or leased equipment after Jan. 1, 2014 and doesn’t exceed the county’s set allocation.
According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s Bill Analysis, once the base allocations are distributed among the counties, the remainder of the $104.5 million is to be divided up by the secretary of state and distributed to the counties.
“If the secretary disbursed $30 million to counties in the form of base allocations, the Secretary could divide the remaining $74.5 million in authorized obligation proceeds by the number of registered voters in the state as of July 1, 2017, to determine a per-voter amount. The Secretary then could allocate an amount to each county equal to the number of registered voters in the county times the per-voter amount,” as stated in the analysis.
Delaware County Board of Elections Karla Herron, director, has stated recently that the county currently has approximately 138,000 registered voters, which would allow for the base allotment of $406,000 for the purchase of new machines in Delaware County.
However, Herron gives an estimate of $4 million to replace the board’s machines. She said the board is looking at two companies approved by the state to purchase machines from.
“Both voting machine companies said they will offer the best and lowest price across the board,” she said. “The companies we are looking at are Election Systems and Software, and RBM who have a hybrid touch screen close to what we currently have.”
Herron said there has been a lot of work put in over the last five years looking at upgrading machines. She said concerns have grown over the current machines that were “deployed during the 2006 midterm primary elections.”
“There are points of failure starting to happen,” she reported to the board of elections in May 2017. “They’re not making the current machines, and we can only get refurbished machines.”
Herron said the machines were purchased with federal dollars through the Help America Vote Act in 2005 at a cost of $115 million and that the board has plans to replace all of the old machines.