Voting equipment upgrades could cost some Kansas counties more than $300K

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HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – An advocacy group is urging eight Kansas counties to upgrade its voting equipment because the current ones do not leave a paper trail.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has asked Geary, Grant, Greeley, Hamilton, Harvey, Sumner, Wallace and Wilson counties to upgrade voting machines.

Harvey County election officials said about 60% of voters use the voting equipment.

“They still work fine,” said Rick Piepho, Harvey County clerk and election official. “I have very few issues with them breaking down or anything else. The only thing they’re lacing is the print out that shows how they voted.”

The big concern for many of the counties is the cost of getting new equipment. Piepho said for Harvey County to replace 50 machines, it would cost more than $300,000.

Piepho said the current machines were purchased about 13 years ago and have only been used for 25 election days. The equipment is still certified and goes through routine maintenance.

“Our election results are accurate with the equipment we have,” said Piepho. “We offer all of our voters the opportunity to vote paper ballot.”

While some may think the current machines are not so reliable, Piepho said they do store the voting data digitally in at least five different ways through the internal system, flash drives and more. It is also not likely the devices could be hacked. Piepho said they were created well before wifi was included in voting devices.

Some voters said they’ve never had an issue and think it’s not required by the state, the money shouldn’t be spent.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Lisa Stockebrand, Harvey County voter. “The paper trail would be nice, but for us, it’s working okay I think.”

Other voters think the upgrades are needed.

“If they have to be replaced, you’re going to have to spend the money eventually, so you might as well spend it now,” said Gary Jones, Harvey County voter.

Piepho said he plans to include the upgrades in the budget for 2021.

Some of the other counties said they plan to get new voting machines before the next presidential election.

According to the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office, fewer than 10 of the Kansas’ 105 counties use election machines that don’t create a paper trail.

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