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Henrico to spend $1.2 million to replace outdated voting equipment

Henrico to spend $1.2 million to replace outdated voting equipment


Henrico County has agreed to pay $1.2 million to buy new voting equipment after state authorities decided hundreds of machines the county already owns are no longer fit for use.

Registrar Mark J. Coakley announced the purchase to the county’s Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting.

The State Board of Elections voted earlier this month to disallow the use of WinVote touch-screen voting machines due to security concerns.

Henrico owned about 800 of the machines and only a handful of others. The county will replace the touch-screen machines with optical scan devices. To use the new machines, voters will fill out paper ballots, then feed them into the machines.

“I’m going to walk up to the booth, grab an ink pen, bubble in and then walk up and put it in the machine?” Varina District supervisor Tyrone E. Nelson asked.

Coakley said that was correct.

While the state election board’s decision rendered nearly the county’s entire stock of voting machines legally unusable, the looming June 9 primary looming meant county officials had to quickly come up with new machines.

One point in their favor was that they had already budgeted $1 million in next year’s capital budget for the purchase.

The county electoral board authorized negotiations with voting machine provider Election Systems & Software even before the state finalized the decertification process, and talks with the new provider began the day after the decertification.

At about 3 p.m. Tuesday, Henrico County officials inked a deal for new machines.

The county will buy 105 scanners and 105 Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant machines for $1,060,400. It will also buy 1,000 voting booths for $111,850.

Saturday trainings for county election workers ahead of the June 9 primary are also included in the contract.

The state has chosen four companies from whom local governments are allowed to buy voting machines. The county was already using Election Systems & Software for absentee voting. Hanover, Richmond and Chesterfield will all be using the equipment as well, Coakley said.

The county completed negotiations in a matter of days that might normally take nine months, but it got the contract right, Coakley said.

“It’s been a huge effort that so many departments came together through the Henrico Way, and we have a contract completed today,” Coakley said.

In 2005, Henrico County paid $2.5 million for the batch of machines the state just threw out, Coakley told the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night, as he held up the original receipt to the board.

“And we can burn that later on tonight,” he joked.

Absentee voting is already taking place ahead of the primary. More than 10 people have voted since Friday, Coakley said.

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