By Bruce Schreiner
The State Election Commission on Friday certified a new voting system touted as having technology to count ballots faster and more accurately. Now it’s up to West Virginia’s counties to decide if they want to spend the money to upgrade their voting systems.
Commissioners voted unanimously to accept the new system made by Elections Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb.
The new system features a high-speed digital scan counter that works faster than the optical-scan ballot counters now in use, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
“You’re able to count the ballots faster and more accurately at the precinct level and at the central county location,” he said.
In some West Virginia counties, ballot counting typically drags long into election night.
“It’s really about letting these counties get done with their count faster on election night,” Glance said.
It’s the first time since 2005 that the State Election Commission has certified a new voting system for use in West Virginia elections.
Both federal and state law require that voting systems be tested to verify security and accuracy.
A federal commission already has certified the system.
Now, the counties will have the option to purchase the new voting system.
The cost will be determined later by contract terms negotiated by the state and the system’s manufacturer.
Harrison County Clerk Susan Thomas said she’s interested in the new system but isn’t ready to recommend that the county purchase it.
“I’d like to see it in action,” Thomas said by phone.
The decision on whether to acquire the new system would ultimately be made by the county commission.
One problem the county encounters is counting absentee ballots that are folded when mailed in, Thomas said. The new digital system is supposed to scan those ballots faster, she said.
Asked if counties were being given enough lead time to get used to the new system if they purchase it before the 2014 election, she replied: “It’s kind of a crunch, but that’s just the way it is for us a lot of times.”