Benton County gets new voting machines

Posted: November 18, 2017 at 1:07 a.m.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/TOM SISSOM Benton County election coordinator Kim Dennison (from left) and election commissioner Mike Sevak help Sharon Rose with the Election Commission staff unpack Friday some of the new voting machines delivered to the county in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County is a step closer to having a new election system, with officials taking delivery of the first batch of voting machines Friday.

Kim Dennison, election coordinator, said the county received 26 Express Voting machines, 11 DS200 ballot counting machines and 26 printers to serve the new system.

Election commissioner Mike Sevak said he expects voters will appreciate the difference.

"I think they're pretty nice," Sevak said. "I also think it's been a long time coming and a long wait."

Sevak said the equipment now being used is at least 11 years old. He said voters will have to adjust to the new system, but there shouldn't be too much of a learning curve.

"When people first see these, they'll probably panic because it's new," he said. "Once they see how easy it is to use and to cast a ballot, I think they're going to enjoy it."

Dennison said after the Nov. 8, 2016, general election the county discovered mechanical issues with 16 of the 489 older-model machines and about half of the machines weren't covered by maintenance contracts.

County Judge Barry Moehring also said he's glad the equipment arrived earlier than anticipated.

"I think it's great we're getting a few in early and the Election Commission and staff can get to work at some smaller elections," Moehring said. "Then we'll be even better prepared for the next big election, which will be the May primary."

Arkansas' preferential primary and nonpartisan judicial elections are May 22.

Michelle Chiocco, justice of the peace for District 10, said she wants to work toward changes in state laws to provide for additional auditing of the vote tallies. Chiocco said she would like to see the state require a comparison of the electronic vote count and the paper ballots the system will also provide.

"Just as an additional safeguard," she said. "I'm interested in having good auditing procedures in place."

Benton County's justices of the peace approved spending $2.4 million for new voting equipment last month. When all of the equipment is delivered, the county will have 475 voting machines, 65 ballot counters and 150 printers. Officials have said space needed to house equipment will exceed the room available at the current office of the Election Commission, and they are looking for a solution to the space issue.

Dennison said someone from Election Systems and Software, the company making the voting equipment, will be in Bentonville soon to check the machines and train the election staff.

Dennison said if poll worker training can be done, she hopes to use the equipment in some special elections she anticipates in February. Dennison said the Pea Ridge School District is planning an election on a millage question and she has been told special elections may be held by Highfill and Springdale.

"We don't anticipate any long lines for these elections," Dennison said.

NW News on 11/18/2017