Johnson County approves new voting machines with first state-approved paper trail

Johnson County commissioners buy new voting machines

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — A county plagued with long lines and voting problems last year is making sure it won’t happen again.

Johnson County commissioners agreed Monday night to spend $1.5 million on new voting machines. They will come with Indiana’s first voter-verifiable paper audit trail or VVPAT.

It’s something News 8 told you about two months ago.

Officials and voters hope the new machines will help fix the problem that they still remember almost one year later.

Election Day 2018 was memorable for all the wrong reasons in Johnson County, with voters telling News 8 they waited for 90 minutes to vote, with the delays forcing others to leave without casting a ballot.

Johnson County Clerk Trena McLaughlin said the vendor used to look up voters created a bottleneck in the system.

Earlier this year, the county terminated its contract with that vendor, then spent $183,000 to buy new e-pollbooks.

Voters Rob Shilts and Tom Milton remember the problems.

“It was a frustrating day,” Shilts said. “I kept looking at my watch and I kept looking at the queue, I didn’t know if I’m going to make it.”

Milton said he waited “at least 1.5 – 2 hours.”

That’s why both men are excited about the new investment.

The county is buying new machines, replacing ones bought in 2008 after a flood. Many of those machines were refurbished themselves.

“With the technology ever-changing, it was time for new voting machines,” McLaughlin said.

According to McLaughlin, 320 machines will cost about $1.5 million, but they will come with the VVPAT that voters can use to make sure their ballots are accurate before they are locked in.

The county leased same model for the May primary. McLaughlin said there were no complaints.

“The machines are simple, they are easy,” she noted. “They are easy to set up, they are easy to take down and they are easy to vote on.”

That’s good news to voters who hope this coming election, as well as the presidential one next year with a much bigger turnout, will be a little less memorable for all the right reasons.

“I’m happy to hear that they’re getting an upgrade,” Shilts said. “The last thing you want to do is limit people or make them wait in line. We need more folks voting, not less.”

“I hope so. We’ll see come election time if it was worth it or not,” Milton adds. “Can’t be any worse than what it was. It’s got to be an improvement. For that kind of money, it better be some kind of improvement.”

The company that makes the machines is MicroVote. It’s based in Indianapolis and supplies voting machines for most Indiana counties.

It cost the county $40,000 to lease the machines in the spring and will cost another $40,000 for the general election.

McLaughlin said 13 leased ones will be tested Wednesday morning.

The newly purchased machines will arrive early next year. As opposed to touch screens like the old machines, these machines have buttons.