Ottawa County elections officials plan to make changes to voting equipment throughout the county within the next year.
According to the Grand Haven Tribune, the county is working on the replacement of aging voting machines following a State Administrative Board authorization to spend $82.1 million during the next 10 years to upgrade and maintain election machines and software.
“We’re really excited about it,” County Elections Coordinator Steve Daitch said. “The state has approved three vendors and we’re kind of going over our options right now.”
The new contracts are with Dominion Voting Systems of Toronto, Election Systems and Software of Nebraska, and Hart InterCivic of Texas.
Daitch said his office is working with the clerks from all of the county’s cities and townships to make a decision on what option to choose from, and noted that they could make a decision “fairly soon.” He said he hopes that the county will have its new election equipment installed by the end of the year.
The state is expected to cover about $40 million of the costs, including most up-front expenses, leaving local communities to foot the rest of the bill. Cost-sharing requirements will vary by community, depending on which vendor local clerks select.
Ottawa County last upgraded its voting machines in 2004.
Daitch noted that one of the biggest impacts for the county will be on the improvement of the hardware and software.
“The biggest challenge, from our perspective, is the software side,” he said. “We’re reliant on old technology.”
A Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency report noted machines across the state still run on the Windows XP operating system, which Microsoft has not sold since 2008, and for which it stopped providing support and security updates in 2014.
The county’s current election machines send results on election night via a phone line connection. The new equipment, Daitch noted, will use a more modern form of sending the results through a cellular modem.
“It would send an encrypted file to our servers at the county,” he said. “We’d ideally be able to get results when the polls close. That’s going to be a noticeable change and a big improvement.”
Officials note that even with the upgrades to the election equipment and software, the process that voters use to fill out their ballots won’t be much different.
“From what I’ve seen, I don’t think there’s going to be much change for the average voter,” Daitch said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.