Forsyth to get new voting machines by 2018

Tim Tsujii

Forsyth to get new voting machines by 2018
May 26
08:00 2016



Forsyth County Board of Elections Director Tim Tsujii outlined the long process for getting new voting machines with Forsyth County commissioners on Thursday, May 19.

Tsujii addressed questions commissioners had about voting machines and what’s being done to improve elections in Forsyth during a county budget meeting. According to HB 586, which was passed by the General Assembly in 2015, the county is required to switch to a paper ballot based system by January 1, 2018. Forsyth uses paper ballots, which are inserted into tabulator machines, on election days and touch screen voting machines during early voting, which do print results for voters to see, but don’t use paper ballots.

Tsujii said the early voting machines can be replaced with similar machines that will produce ballots. Though tabulator machines meet the new paper-based mandate, they are past their prime and need replacing as well. Tsujii estimated replacing existing equipment would cost $1.5 million. He said commissioners should also consider using one method of voting on both early voting and election days, which would simplify poll worker training and maintenance.

Martin said that the commissioners had held off on replacing the machines in the past because there’s only one vendor selling state certified voting machines that can be used.

“Surely, the State Board of Elections recognizes that competition is part of America,” said Martin. “We need an opportunity for people to bid on that.”

Tsujii said that the lack of competition comes from state requirements to certify voting machines that include giving the State BOE the machine’s source code. Currently there’s still only one vendor with certified machines.

Voters shouldn’t expect to see changes soon. Tsujii recommended waiting as long as possible so the county gets the latest avail-able technology when buying the machines.

The state-mandated process for new voting equipment is doing a public demonstration of the machine, bringing a preliminary recommendation to commissioners, doing a test pilot at one precinct during an election, getting State BOE approval, and then getting county commissioners’ final approval on the new machines. In the tentative timeline given to commissioners as an example, the machines could be tested in the 2017 municipal election and then used in the 2018 election.

In the meantime, the Forsyth BOE is trying to prevent repeating errors from the midterm election. The State BOE ordered the South Ward City Council primary to be held again on June 7 because dozens of voters received the wrong ballot in a race that Carolyn Highsmith won by only six votes. The State BOE also ordered that 130 unsigned provisional ballots be counted after the signature line didn’t print out and poll workers failed to get a signature. Tsujii said poll workers will be getting ballots from marked folders this time to avoid confusion and will have provisional ballots on hand instead of printing them on the spot.

Tsujii told commissioners that training is also being redone. There will be more opportunities for training and, instead of being lecture based, it will involve hands-on, simulation-based training.

“It’s part of my job to identify ways to make it easier and to simplify the process so they can do a better job,” said Tsujii.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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