November 5, 2013 9:44:33 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Lowndes County will advertise for a new voting machine system that scans paper ballots.
Supervisors passed a request from county purchasing clerk Terry Thompson to solicit bids by a 4-1 vote. Leroy Brooks was the only opposing vote.
If the county goes forward with purchasing new equipment, it would replace the TSX electronic voting system that has been used since 2005 to process votes digitally. That's when Mississippi received federal funding for the TSX systems as well as maintenance and technical support. Lowndes County circuit clerk Haley Salazar said in September that money for support and upkeep will not be provided after this year and that going back to paper ballots would be more efficient for voters, poll workers and election commissioners.
Brooks reiterated his opinion first stated during the county budgeting process that the paper scanners would be "a step back" and that he recently went to an exhibition of the machine known as the DS200 from one of its vendors and said the machine "jammed." The county budgeted $248,300 for circuit elections this year.
"I am real leery about going back to the use of paper ballots with all I've seen in my political career," Brooks said. "We've got a pretty good system that everybody is accustomed to."
If the county purchases the new equipment, poll workers would be able to scan absentee ballots themselves, and any ballot that would not properly run through the scanner would be packaged up and returned to the courthouse for the election board to evaluate.
Salazar estimated each scanner in the $5,000-$6,000 range and said she'd hoped to purchase 25 for the county's 22 precincts. Budgeted funds plus saved past election appropriations would be pooled to purchase the new equipment.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.