LUBBOCK, TX - The Lubbock County Elections Office unveiled 1,100 new voting machines, replacing the first round of electronic machines from back in 2005.
The new machines were released ahead of November’s state constitutional amendment election.
"It was the eleventh year that equipment had been used,” Lubbock County Commissioner of Precinct 4 Patti Jones said. “It was getting harder and harder to find replacement parts for it. In fact, I think it is Bexar County that still has the equipment we had, and they are having to go on Ebay to find parts for their equipment.”
The change cost just under six million dollars, but the Lubbock County Commissioners say it was a necessary investment.
“I don't think that anybody in Lubbock County wants us to get into a situation where we have to be reactive because a bunch of equipment crashed or a bunch of it died at the same time,” Jones said. “We were trying to proactive instead of reactive, and it is always a plus when you can do that. So, we have been setting money aside for the last several years for this.”
She said they had set aside around four million dollars before getting an equipment quote for around six million. 11 years ago, federal money helped buy the last round of machines.
“Moving forward we knew there was no federal or state dollars, this was going to be on Lubbock county to purchase this new equipment,” Jones.
Commissioner Bill McCay of Precinct 1 reiterated how necessary the purchase was.
“It's not just the latest greatest. It is something that works,” McCay said. “Do any of your home computers, or iPhones, keep beyond 11 years? Equipment wears out. So, it was beginning to wear out, and before we got into a critical situation, the opportunity came up.”
He added, “it is always a balancing act trying to do as much as you can with what little dollars you have.”
The Elections Office said the new machines should be more user friendly, with new features like rechargeable batteries, an easier to remove tablet to accommodate some voters who cannot come in from their cars, and a touchscreen to replace the spinning selection wheel.
“People would forget in between elections that 'Oh, I have to turn that wheel.' So their automatic reaction was always touch screen. These are touch screen with five wire capability so they can go through many touches before they have to be calibrated,” Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy said.
Unfortunately, this new equipment won't speed up the results process because that still depends on election workers.
“Getting election results is not about the speed of it, it's about the accuracy of it,” Kennedy said. “I am not going to put out to you guys something that we are not confident in.”
They launched the equipment in May with four local entities’ elections, after testing in local elementaries, but are anticipating its first county wide usage in November.
“So this was not a hastily made decision. This has been in the works to get to this point, so that we could get this equipment, get it rolled out,” Jones said. “But then to use it in a constitutional amendment, that is a county wide election... we are looking forward to this.”
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