Clarification: An earlier version of this story mentioned “a paper receipt” produced by ElectionSource’s touch-screen voting machines. The touch-screen machines do not actually print a receipt for voters to keep, but rather a paper ballot that is scanned into a vote counting machine and kept by county officials.
GIRARD — In the wake of the 2016 elections, concerns about the reliability of electronic voting machines became widespread.
While Crawford County may soon buy new touch-screen voting equipment, however, residents need not be overly worried. A new state law that passed in 2018 and came into effect this year requires a paper trail that officials can follow to document voting records, although paper voting records have long been in use in Crawford County, according to County Clerk Don Pyle.
On Wednesday, March 20, representatives of election equipment vendor ElectionSource were in Girard to demonstrate the uses of their various voting machines for county officials. Models on display included both machines for sorting and counting paper ballots, and touch-screen voting units that also print out a paper ballot to feed into the vote counting machines to allow officials to have a traceable record of voters’ digitally-produced ballots.
At the March 15 Crawford County Commission meeting, Pyle said the county was “one of probably the last 20 or 30 counties in the state” that hasn’t replaced election equipment bought in 2006. “We need to do that,” Pyle said. “It’s hard to get that stuff serviced anymore.”
Pyle added that the only real change since then in Crawford County has been to add electronic check-in systems at some of the bigger polling places, but at smaller polling locations serving just a few hundred voters or less, the county has still been using paper poll books.
The older electronic election equipment the county currently uses was made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). While ES&S remains one of three companies certified to sell voting equipment in the State of Kansas, and the county will get a quote from them and consider buying the newer models of their equipment, Pyle said county officials were interested in seeing how the other two companies’ equipment worked as they were not as familiar with it.
Pyle also noted there is a bill under consideration this year in the state legislature that would shift the county’s responsibility from having polling places designated based on their proximity to voting precincts they are assigned to serve to instead having polling places countywide where any county resident could go to vote on election day. Under that bill, if it becomes law as currently written, it would be up to individual counties if they want to change their present system of setting up polling places.
ElectionSource representatives Don Vopalensky and Josh King said during their presentation Wednesday at the county courthouse in Girard that one feature of their equipment is it allows election officials to print out ballots right at the polling place.
“Especially bigger counties like the idea of having that flexibility, so if they’re running short they can go back and do that,” Vopalensky said.
King also demonstrated the ElectionSource paper vote counting machine’s capability to separate write-in ballots, which can be more of a hassle for election officials than standard ballots filled out with votes for candidates whose names appear already printed on them.
“What we like about that is it gives us that peace of mind at the end of the night,” King said.
“We won’t have to shuffle through 1,000 ballots. We’re just going to go pull those out, seal them away as the county wants you to, and then you can go pull out those write-ins and deal with those,” King told the audience, which largely consisted of poll workers.
An election equipment demonstration from another potential vendor, Henry M. Adkins and Son, Inc., is scheduled for 2 p.m. next Wednesday, March 27, at the County Commission Meeting Room at the courthouse in Girard.