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New machines in place for voting

Q: Why did Prince Edward County purchase new voting machines? What will be different about the new machines when we vote next month?

Voters in Prince Edward County will be going back to basics when they fill out their ballots during the Nov. 7 election.

According to Prince Edward County Voter Registrar Lynette Wright, compared to previous years where ballots have been cast via a touch screen monitor, this year ballots will be on paper. Wright said the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors approved an amount of $116,760 that is payable in two budget amounts, so that $58,380 will be taken from this fiscal year budget and the same amount will be taken from the next for the new machines.

“We had the DRE systems that got outlawed three weeks ago, but we already had ours in place before that happened,” Wright said. “It’s paper ballots so it should be a whole lot easier. I know a lot of people sometimes get intimidated when they have to mess with electronics.”

She said there will be a oval on the ballot and all those who are voting will take a black ink pen and fill in the oval beside the name of the candidate a voter is voting for.

“You can review as long as you like and then you just place it into the scanner and it goes through the scanner, the scanner reads it and it drops into the bottom … That way at the end of the night the poll workers still can have the results taped so we get the just as quick as we used too,” Wright said.

“But then you also have the paper trail because all the paper ballots are stored in the ballot box, and that of course gets locked up in the clerk’s office and if the judge ever needed to revisit it. Then you’ve got all your paper that you can recount.”

She said so far she’s had 13 people come into her office to vote absentee.

“Everybody loves it. They’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so simple,’” Wright said regarding the paper ballots. “…I’m looking forward to using them, I think the public’s really going to like it.”

According to a press release from the Virginia Department of Elections, the decertification of the Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting equipment, in Virginia was approved in an effort to increase the security and integrity of Virginia’s voting systems ahead of this year’s election.

“The vote to decertify the DRE, or touch screen voting equipment is effective immediately and means that DREs may no longer be used for elections in Virginia,” officials said in the release. “DREs are used in 22 localities across the commonwealth.”

The release cited that the Department of Elections had requested a security assessment by the Virginia Information Technology Agency of various paperless voting systems in use in Virginia and determined that decertification was necessary to safeguard against unauthorized access to the machines.

“Additionally, the DREs in use in Virginia do not have a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, which is an important security feature provided by the paper systems,” officials said in the release.

According to the release, the department contacted all DRE localities in early August about the security concerns so that they had sufficient time to prepare for a smooth transition.

“Throughout this process, the department has coordinated with local officials and vendors, which have affirmed adequate inventory and staff to handle equipping and training localities with new voting equipment,” officials said in the release.