New voting machines on Polk’s horizon

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2018

Election director gives update on 2018 election, new voting laws

COLUMBUS — Polk County will be looking at purchasing new voting machines next year, as North Carolina is requiring paper systems by the 2020 election.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Election Director Cliff Marr regarding new state laws.

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Marr said there were a lot of changes in 2018, including that county boards of elections went from three to four members and the state board of election increased from five to nine members.

Currently, the county boards have two members per party, or two Democrats and two Republicans.

Marr also spoke of the record turnout the 2018 election brought in Polk County. There were 5,529 people who voted early, which was a record number for Polk’s one early voting site.

The total election saw a 57.73 percent turnout, which was also a record for a midterm election.

Marr said an election takes many partnerships and departments working together.

“The team in Polk County is very strong,” he said.

He thanked the county manager’s office and other departments for their help and said, because the county is small, it can offer personal service to residents.

“I’m very proud of the work our staff does to make sure their vote counts,” Marr said.

On new voting machines, state law from 2015 required paper systems by 2019. Marr said that date was delayed until 2020, but he wants to run the municipal election of 2019 on the new machines prior to the 2020 presidential election.

The next step is actually purchasing the new machines, which Marr suggested be done at the beginning of next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2019.

Marr also said the county will not need as many new machines, which should offset some of the costs. The machines cost roughly $3,000 each, and Marr said he plans to purchase 15.

Other law changes include the requirement of photo identification to vote, which North Carolina voters approved via ballot initiative in November.

Marr said it looks like the board of elections is going to be producing physical cards, with the law stating that will occur by May of next year. Marr said the governor has vetoed that bill, but he expects that to get overridden.

There could be some costs to the implementation, but he is unsure at this point, Marr said.