A plan to give $114.5 million in state funds to counties to purchase new voting machines cleared the Ohio House on a unanimous vote on Thursday.
The money will be distributed to counties based in part on the number of registered voters they have.
Butler and Warren counties collectively stand to receive more than $5 million based on projections. Each county with more than 100,000 registered voters will get a base allocation of $406,000 and additional funds based on the total number of registered voters as of July 1, 2017.
Butler County officials project they’ll receive just more than $3 million, and Warren County officials expect they’ll receive about $2 million. Both counties are working with machines purchased in 2005.
Butler County explored the idea of replacing its 1,600 machines last year, but that stalled when lawmakers and Gov. John Kasich removed all funding for voting machines from the state budget bill.
Butler County elections officials predicted new machines could cost between $3 million and $6 million.
Once the state makes the funding available, “we’ll move forward into looking at what new machines we want,” said Butler County Board of Elections Director Diane Noonan.
Warren County will spend $2.2 million to $2.7 million, above the anticipated allocation, said county Elections Director Brian Sleeth. Any overages will be paid out of the county’s election revenue fund, which was established five years ago, he said.
“My hope is that we have a contract by the end of this year,” he said. “I’d like to go into 2019, the first election in May, I’d like to have all the voting equipment ready to go for 2020.”
County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Election Officials said the money would help counties “make desperately needed upgrades to voting technology.”
Ohio purchased most of the current voting machines in 2005 and 2006 with nearly $115 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money. HAVA passed after the 2000 presidential election exposed the critical need for upgrades.
Ohio election officials want to purchase and deploy the new equipment before the 2020 presidential election when turnout is expected to be larger. The plan is to have the machines ready for the 2019 elections.
“I am happy to be sending desperately needed funding to our counties for upgrades to our aging voting systems. This funding should have been approved months ago in the state capital budget,” said state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, who is running for Secretary of State. “It’s a shame that election officials have had to wait so long as their budgets have been cut and they’ve had to go looking for replacement parts on eBay. Now, they’ll have some help upgrading and securing their systems.”
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Hudson, who is also running for Secretary of State.