The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors has approved nearly $54,000 for the purchase of eight new voting machines — one for each Rappahannock County precinct, one spare, and one for the central absentee precinct.
Kim McKiernan, Rappahannock’s Director of Elections for the last five years, sees these appropriations as a huge win for both elected officials and their constituents.
“We’re so thankful that our voters will have the latest voting equipment,” she says.
The funds were approved just in the nick of time — new Virginia law requires that all localities around the state replace touch screen voting machines with ones that read paper ballots by January 1, 2020, in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While 2020 may seem far away, McKiernan says that a lot has to be done to prepare both the machines and the election officials before the new equipment can be used in a general election. First, Dominion Voting, one of five voting machine vendors certified on state contract, must train her and the electoral board. Then she and the electoral board must teach the election officials how to correctly operate the equipment. Finally, the new machines must be used in a primary before they can be used in a larger general election to ensure a smooth transition from the old equipment to the new.
The BOS approval of these funds will help ensure that all these preparations can be completed in a timely manner.
In addition, it will hasten the replacement of old, outdated equipment. In an interview, McKiernan likened the voting machines to any other piece of technology: “If you had a 20-year-old laptop, would you expect it to work perfectly?”
While McKiernan says she and the Electoral Board test all the voting machines before every election to ensure they are working properly, she notes that the vendor is no longer manufacturing the replacement parts for the voting equipment the county currently owns.
Clearly, the new voting machines will be welcomed with open arms.
While $54,000 is a lot of money to pay up front, McKiernan says that eventually the new equipment will save the county money in memory card programming and ballot styles.
In a day and age when people are so concerned with the integrity of election results, these new machines are Rappahannock’s own way of ensuring that our democracy remains free and fair, making recounts more accurate and assuring that the latest technology is processing our vote.
“On behalf of the voters of Rappahannock County, we (the Electoral Board and myself) would like to express our gratitude to the Board of Supervisors for approving the county budget to include funding for the purchase of new voting equipment,” McKiernan says. “We are pleased that our voters will soon be able to use the latest technology to vote with extensive security features and improved reliability.”