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Election officials mull paper ballot option

“Is there a learning curve? Absolutely.”

The Warren County Commissioners met with Director of Elections Lisa Rivett during Monday’s work session to discuss challenges from the most recent election – and subsequent solutions.

But it isn’t yet quite clear whether the solution will focus on additional voting machines or a paper-based solution.

Rivett presented the commissioners with a quote to purchase additional new machines which would bring the level of machines up to what the county had with the old machines that were replaced for the November election.

The 10-year lease cost to the county would increase from $65,089 to $68,109 for the additional machines – approximately $3,000 annually.

The major challenge to election day was increased turnout along with new machines.

Some precincts ran out of the weighted paper that the machine provider – Dominion – suggests.

But Rivett said that the county does not “necessarily need to use the weighted paper that Dominion recommends because the lighter paper will work.”

“It’s not the paper’s fault,” she noted. “It’s not the machine’s fault. Is there a learning curve? Absolutely. Not only for the poll workers but for the voters….”

“Did anyone run out of paper? Nobody ran out of paper. Did they run low? Yeah.”

“No one ever ran out of paper because we had people replenish,” Commissioner Ben Kafferlin said.

Would additional machines solve the issues from November – such as longer-than-normal lines?

“I think we’ll be fine,” Rivett said, if the number of machines is expanded. “It will be logistics planning for more paper. I thought I was as well prepared as I could be” but cited turnout as unexpectedly high.

“This looks good to me generally speaking,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said of acquiring additional machines. “On the flip side of it, hypothetically if we were going to do a paper majority, we would cut the number of machines down to 33 or 34… and then what the cost of paper” would be.

Rivett suggested that the county could provide the voter with a paper ballot option but Eggleston suggested the county “do it one way or the other. Why incur the added cost?”

“We’ve gotten frankly so much concern about the machine,” he added. “I’m at the point… just give them paper.”

Eggleston noted the “concern” over how the machines work and “how they function,” noting that paper seems easier.

“The second reason to do it is the question of cost,” he said of going to paper. “If we saw a significant savings in going to paper, then it would just be a matter of going on an extra step with the poll worker.”

Overvoting, though, becomes a challenge with paper ballots.

“There was a significant amount of overvotes,” Kafferlin said while Rivett noted that “it’s all on the ballot” but said “people don’t always read.”

“I don’t think that the number of machines… looks like it’s going to dramatically decrease our cost to go to paper,” Kafferlin said. “The cost is not in the literal voting machine. The cost is in the system as a whole.”

“I don’t think we’ve costed it out though,” Eggleston said.

“But it can’t be significant,” Kafferlin responded.

“(We’ve) never really dug into the paper option,” Eggleston reiterated, tasking Rivett with undertaking a “cost analysis” of the paper ballot alternative.

“If that’s an option, the only reason we would have the machines at all is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance,” he said, noting that if it is “not reasonable… (we) will move forward with getting more machines.”

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