County Commission greenlights new voting machines

County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to spend $4 million to buy new voting machines. It is a green light now for election officials to move forward with revamping a system that has taken a lot of heat locally. But it was clear at Monday's meeting that some are worried about the timing.

Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton told election officials they'd better have a plan in place to help voters over the hump once new voting machines are installed.

"I'm anticipating long waits," Bolton said," unless we come up with something innovative to help the citizens navigate the new system."

The Commission wrapped up months of discussion with a unanimous vote to buy the machines at a cost of 4.2 million. About three million of that will be coming from the state. The County will spend another quarter million on a paper audit trail that will add another layer of verification.

But Bolton worried the launch of the new systems could be disastrous because of the size of the August 3rd ballot. Election Commissioner James Johnson was confident the systems would work.

"We've visited other jurisdictions who've used the machine, talked to voters, talked to the people running the elections and they've all been very pleased," he said.

Election Commissioner Rich Holden said the average voter spends about four minutes in the ballot booth with the new system, nearly the identical amount of time spent with the current machines.

Tuesday at 4pm the election commission will meet to discuss educating the public about how to use the new equipment, which should arrive by July 1, 2006.