Adams County has been awarded a $110,000 federal grant for the purchase of new voting machines, officials said Wednesday.
In April, Adams County commissioners approved spending $456,760 on new voting machines through vendor Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Nebraska. The previous machines were put into use in 2006, with these are newer versions of them, according to officials.
The county included $500,000 in this year’s budget for the machines.
The Help America Vote Act grant, accepted by commissioners Wednesday, goes toward the “voter-verifiable paper ballot system and software certified” by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The grant runs from April 18, 2019 through Oct. 31, 2020.
The new voting machines will be put into use during the November general election, Adams County Commissioner Chairman Randy Phiel said.
“The change is not dramatic,” Phiel said, noting the county already had voting machines with paper backups.
In February 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement on the “new directive” from the Pennsylvania Department of State’s requirement for new voting machines that call for a paper backup record.
Phiel said state officials wanted every county to “have a paper trail.”
“Our machines were working 100 percent,” Phiel said, but officials “threatened to de-certify” the machines.
Phiel said he heard Gov. Wolf is in support of a potential reimbursement for county voting machines. Phiel said 60 percent has been proposed as a possible reimbursement amount, which would equate to 70 percent including the 10 percent federal reimbursement.
Phiel, who serves on the board of directors on the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), said the organization has been pushing for a greater reimbursement from the state and a shorter time period for the payments.
“That is more than we could have hoped for,” Phiel said.
The county purchased 55 scanners as well as 50 “express vote terminals” that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, said Angie Crouse, director of elections and voter registration.
Commissioner Marty Qually said the county plans to have an ADA-compliant machine at every precinct, which involves using a touchscreen and “feel like you are using a computer.”
By using the machines in the municipal election, it will be “less hectic” than a presidential election, according to Phiel, who noted the difference in voter turnout.
During a municipal election, the county sees between 18 and 30 percent voter turnout, but presidential races can bring out 50 to 75 percent, Phiel said.
Phiel said the general election will give county staff and poll workers a chance to become acclimated with the new machines.
Adams County Solicitor Molly Mudd said staff is in training to learn about the new machines this week, which are “not much different from before.”
“We are way ahead of the curve,” Mudd said.