Montgomery County voters test new polling technology at mock election

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Casting a vote in a Ohio will soon be more high-tech.

As part of a statewide initiative to upgrade polling technology ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Ohio is distributing $114.5 million to all 88 county boards of elections.

Montgomery County’s current voting equipment is more than a decade old. The county estimates replacing the system would cost close to $8 million and expects to receive up to $4.5 million in state funding.

Tuesday, the county board of elections hosted a “mock election” open house so voters could provide feedback about several potential election systems.

“They’re our stakeholders,” MCBOE deputy director Steve Harsman said of the voters. “They’re the folks that will touch (the polls) and pay for it with taxpayer dollars.”

Participants walked through an election simulation and tested three different systems. Each included a digital check-in process and paper ballots. Some had the option of filling a ballot in by hand or electronically on a touch-screen computer.

The Board of Elections explained reverting back to paper ballots gives voters the option of double-checking their votes and provides pollsters a more reliable, tangible record.

Helen Wallace, a Montgomery County voter and a candidate for judge in the juvenile court system, said she hopes the updated system will give voters more confidence in the election process.

“I found the system very simple to use,” Wallace said. “It was very well-explained and I do feel assured that my vote is going to be tabulated correctly.”

Harsman said all of the potential systems would make set-up easier for poll workers, voting more secure and results faster to tally.

He hoped the mock election and early discussion about voting would increase voter turnout in the coming elections.

“Hopefully doing an event like this will get people energized and excited to participate in our form of democracy, which is elections,” he said.”

With feedback from Tuesday’s open house, the Board of Elections plans to select the new election system by this fall. Harsman said it will likely be installed by the May 2019 election and fully integrated by the 2020 presidential election.

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