MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County Board of Elections staff has tested and began installation of its new Clear Ballot voting systems and is planning to hold mock elections for the public to acclimate themselves to the new system.
Director of the board of elections Laura Bruns said the board has received the majority of the units and expects one last shipment in August. The units have been tested and worked as expected. Deputy director Ian Ridgeway said the systems are easy to use and provided the board test reports from the new system. The new voting system purchase, paid for by Secretary of State funds, will replace approximately 470 direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines with 94 precinct scanners, 30 ballot-marking devices, which are ADA-compliant, and two central scanners for provisional and absentee ballots. The new system costs around $1 million, paid by state funds.
Bruns said the Secretary of State has requested the board hold a mock election at the board office at the Miami County Courthouse. Bruns said Secretary of State Frank LaRose plans to attend the mock election to be held on Thursday, Aug. 29. No times have been determined at this time.
“It’ll be run very much like an election day,” Bruns said. “(Secretary of State) really wanted it to be more of an event for the public and the press to come in so we can show that we know how to use the equipment, we know how to count the votes and how to work it from the beginning to the end.”
Bruns said the board of elections is planning demonstrations of the new voting equipment, including at the Miami County Fair. The new machines will be used for the fair board election on Aug. 12 and be on display at the fairgrounds. Other voting equipment demonstrations will be held at various locations such as the Troy and Piqua libraries and other libraries or similar venues.
“Basically, it is just an opportunity for people come and get their hands on it,” said Bruns, noting it will help the public understand the new machines prior to the November election.
Bruns also reported the ADA coordinator from the Secretary of State’s office will visit next Monday to do an assessment of its American with Disabilities Act compliance of the board of elections office. Board members discussed their concerns with the Miami County Courthouse’s plaza project as well as the planned security improvements, which have yet to be installed on the first floor, and its impact on the public. Currently, the Miami County Courthouse can only be accessed on the east side of the building while construction is being performed.
Bruns said no matter what the findings are, the board office staff will do its best to accommodate the state’s ADA report and assess its impact on the public’s access once it is presented. Secretary of State regional liaison Kenny Henning said the board may want to discuss how they will address the possible findings. Chairman of the board Dave Fisher said a special board meeting may be warranted depending on its findings.
Bruns said during the board of elections demonstrations they would be educating the public of the access issues they may encounter during the construction process and provide information on how to vote by mail and other alternatives.
Bruns said she didn’t think a second location to hold early voting was feasible due to security and technology constraints. Bruns explained to the board the possible layout of the voting machines and staff locatEd in the office and hallway that she believes can accommodate early voting at this time.
Bruns presented the board a request for $42,000 in additional appropriations related to the voting system implementation. Approximately $31,325 of the request is to purchase security carts which would transport the new voting systems to the polls. The carts are used in Clark County and keep all items secure in transportation in loading and unloading the systems. Other requested items include an automatic letter opener, laminate machine and a TV to project images to determine issues with ballots or signatures, as an example. Bruns also included a $5,000 contingency fund for other items that may be needed as the board goes through the process of using the new Clear Ballot system. The board approved the recommendation, which will be presented to the Miami County Commissioners for review.
Bruns reported the board has received its $30,000 in funds for its security pilot project. The Texas company Cyber Defense is the contractor for the cyber security program. Bruns said the board will start working on security initiatives such as background checks and a secure voting room.
Bruns updated the board about the disposal of the old voting systems. She said AITS of Franklin County reached out to the board and proposed to dispose of the machines at no cost to the board. The company recycles the components and will pick up the equipment at no charge. Henning said the company has performed similar work for other boards of elections and is reputable.
Bruns reported to the board the Aug. 7 deadline to file for the Nov. 5 election. Bruns said many of the candidates for the county’s seats have yet to file. The board has planned to meet in a special meeting at 3 p.m. Aug. 16 and its regular meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 27. The deadline to certify petitions is Aug. 19.
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