The Public Record

No new voting machines for county

State withdraws matching offer for funding

Crittenden County won’t be getting new voting machines in 2018 after the state pulled an offer to pay for 50 percent of the costs. Election Commissioner Mike Farrah told the Quorum Court that the state has withdrawn its offer, even though the county was told they would be getting the money.

“Unfortunately, that is no longer on the table,” Farrah said. “For some reason, it fell through.”

Earlier this year, the state offered to pay 50 percent of the cost to counties to replace aging election machines that are over ten years old.

The Secretary of State’s Office made one million dollars available to help offset the costs and Governor Asa Hutchinson pledged $5 million from his budget to help counties acquire new voting equipment.

The Quorum Court voted in July to send in the paperwork and were told that they were on the list.

County Judge Woody Wheeless said the county did its part but that the state has since pulled the offer.

“We did what we were required to,” Wheeless said. “When I called the Secretary of State’s office they said ‘sorry, we’re out of money.’ They were supposed to be holding money on our behalf.”

The cost to replace voting equipment at all 24 of the county’s polling locations is $573,246. The state proposed to pay $287,816 of that leaving the county’s share at $285,429.

Farrah said there is talk that the state will be making more money available again to replace voting equipment in the coming year.

“But that is just water cooler talk,” Farrah said. “So we will see what happens.”

In the meantime, Farrah said the county has been given 15 “like new” voting machines from Lee County which are the same machines Crittenden County uses.

“We thought we were getting new equipment,” Farrah said. “These are like new. They just don’t use them. So we will have 15 spares and that will help immensely.”

Farrah said the county also purchased 50 new poll tablets that will help expedite the check-in process.

“These tablets are compatible with the machines we have now,” Farrah said.

By Mark Randall