The Guilford County elections department has just held a major election and now all those machines the county’s voters used have to be sold off or scrapped – and the county must buy new machines at an estimated cost of $7 million.
State law says that machines used by Guilford County – and every other county in the state – must meet certain new criteria by the end of 2019. Guilford County currently owns 1,430 touchscreen machines that tabulate the votes electronically and will therefore not be legal after next year.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said his office is currently exploring its options.
“The statute requires that the ballot be marked by the voter, and then that marked piece of paper is tabulated by the machines,” Collicutt said. “Right now, the voter is casting electronically and the electronic count is getting tabulated.”
According to Collicutt, the simplest way to comply with the new law is to use a “bubble optical scan” system – one where the voter fills in bubbles that are then read and recorded by tabulating machines.
“Other alternatives are interfaces that have a touchscreen like the county’s current machines but, instead of counting electronically, it prints out your selections,” he said. “In that case, the touch screen is a glorified printing device.”
Collicutt said the county’s machines used in the recent election might be sold back to the vendor or sold to other states with laws that allow those machines.
“Other states use these,” he said.
Most of the machines currently in use in Guilford County were purchased in 2006.
Guilford County, along with every other county in the state, is still waiting to see which specific brands the state board of elections will certify for purchase.