Carson City is getting new voting equipment in time for the 2018 midterm election.
Instead of a plastic card, voters will get a bar-coded, paper ballot to insert into the new machines. They will then make choices via a touchscreen, much like the existing system, and when done the machines will print out the inserted paper ballot, which voters can verify and then put into a ballot box, or scanner, to cast their vote.
“This is a change, but when I talk to people about the difference they say that it would be so nice to have a paper ballot to drop in the box,” said Susan Merriwether, Carson City clerk-recorder.
The Nevada Legislature this year set aside $8 million to provide half the cost of new voting equipment throughout the state.
Carson City’s share will likely be $231,388. Another $149,750 has been allocated in the recorder’s office capital improvement budget and $15,803 set aside to update poll books, those books election workers use to check in voters.
That leaves a gap of about $65,000, said Merriwether, which the recorder’s office will probably go to the Board of Supervisors to make up through the general fund or finance it through the vendor, Election Systems & Software.
First, the board will vote this Thursday on applying for the state grant. Merriwether hopes to request the additional funds and take the contract for approval to the board in October, then hold an open house in December to introduce the new system to the public.
The rest of the counties in the state are going with an updated system from the current vendor, Dominion Voting Systems Corp., using Samsung tablets and the same type of internal paper ballot that is only viewed.
Merriwether thinks most of the state’s clerk-recorders didn’t want to change the process, both for voters and for staff. But, she said there are several advantages to the new paper ballot system.
For example, Carson City is buying 32 fewer machines. In the old system, machines had to be programmed for early voting and then for election day voting.
As a result, counties had to have mostly separate machines for early voting and election day because the three days between the two was not enough time to reprogram all the machines.
In addition, the ES&S system Carson City is purchasing has already been certified by the state.
Merriwether talked it over with the supervisors to make sure they approved of her choice.
“Everyone supported it,” she said. “I’ve been doing elections a long time and feel strongly about it. I think the voters are going to love it.”