The Ohio Statehouse announced Wednesday the Ohio Senate has taken the first step in providing funding to counties to update voting equipment. Senate Bill 135 will move to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration and vote by its members.
“Ohio is a national leader in elections administration because we focus on making our state a place where it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted Wednesday in response to the Senate’s passage of the bill. “To maintain that status, we must continue to modernize by investing in innovation and that means replacing our voting machines.”
The bill, which contains funding to maintain fair and secure elections, passed by a 32-1 vote in the Senate. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Ostrander.
“Today’s overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Ohio Senate moves us closer to that goal,” Husted said. “I commend Senate President Larry Obhof and Sen. Frank LaRose for their leadership on this issue and thank those lawmakers who supported the bill. I’m hopeful the Ohio House will soon follow suit.”
“I’m encouraged by this,” said Delaware County Board of Elections Director Karla Herron. “It’s definitely been at the forefront of everybody’s mind, but we kept it under our hats.”
Herron said in “round numbers the county has 138,000 register voters.” The machines that voters are using were purchased with federal dollars through the Help America Vote Act in 2005 at a cost of $115 million.
“It’s fortuitous that this is coming about this year because we don’t want to debut new equipment in the 2020 presidential election,” she said. “It’s all going to be timely.”
Herron reported in May 2017 that there were points of failure starting to happen with the current machines and that the board could “only get refurbished machines.” About the same time, she reported to the board of receiving a directive from Husted’s office to replace all voting machines by 2020, which she estimated the cost to replace the county’s machines would be $4 million.
“We plan to replace the entire system,” Herron said Thursday. “We can keep going for a while. We’ve been so lucky in Delaware County.”
The BOE met with the county commissioners in a special session at the end of May 2017 to discuss the purchase of new machines. Both boards were in agreement to wait 12 months to see if the state would certify machines similar to the ones used by the county and if the state would partner with the counties in sharing the cost of purchasing new machines.
Senate Bill 135 is primarily sponsored by State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who introduced it in the Ohio Senate in April 2017.
According to the language of the Senate Bill 135, “counties will be given a fixed amount based on the number of registered voters to help with the start-up costs that are associated with buying new machines. The remaining funds are then distributed proportionally to each county based on the number of registered voters.”
The bill’s funding break down is as follows: counties with 0-19,000 registered voters will be given a base amount of $205,000; those with 20,000-99,999 registered voters will be given a base amount of $250,000; and counties with 100,000 or more registered voters will be given $406,000.
“We cannot allow Ohio’s future elections to be compromised due to failing voting machines,” LaRose said in a March 1 press release from his office. “This issue needs to be addressed now before major technical issues disrupt the integrity of our elections. Ohioans should be confident now and into the future that their vote will be cast on a secure and reliable voting machine.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.