CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - Update: 1/17/2019
The Wood County Clerk's office Thursday got its shipment of replacements, for voting machines in use since 2004.
County Clerk Mark Rhodes says the new electronic machines should make it easier for voters to see who they voted for, and make changes if necessary.
It should also speed up the post-election vote canvass.
"If you change your mind while you're voting-if you vote for somebody,", Rhodes said, "then you cancel and you vote for somebody else-when we do a hand count, we don't have to mark down somebody, erase somebody, then mark down somebody else, so we're only going to see somebody who actually voted. So that should also make things go smoother in the hand counting."
While the new machines probably won't be in use until the 2020 elections-no elections are expected in Wood County this year-Rhodes says employees will be in training on them during the coming 12 months.
He also hopes to hold sessions where they can be explained and demonstrated to the general public.
Wood County Commission officially accepted the state grant Monday.
The state grant will offer nearly $675,000 to the county to buy new voting machines. The county will have to pay $768,000 on a five-year, zero interest loan.
County Clerk Mark Rhodes says the machines will not be in use until the 2020 election.
The Wood County Commission has yet to make a decision on accepting a state grant for the purchase of new voting machines.
On Tuesday, the West Virginia Secretary of State's office announce nearly $675,000 for Wood County to purchase the new machines.
But that requires the county to come up with nearly $800,000 in matching funds.
Two of the three commissioners believe that might be difficult, citing the county's tight budget.
But County Clerk Mark Rhodes believes that money is available.
"This past year has been a good year for Wood County," Rhodes opined, "and I can see that continuing on, with some more development and everything. If I didn't think we could pay for it, I wouldn't have bought it."
The machines would replace units that are 12 years old, some of which have been taken out of service due to mechanical issues.
The new machines would not be put into use until the 2020 election, meaning the old machines will still be used in the November races, and in whatever elections take place in Wood County in 2019.
Wood and Ritchie are among 41 West Virginia counties to be awarded grant funding aimed at improving election security.
In all, the West Virginia State Election Commission approved 41 counties to receive $6,535,479.
Wood County will receive a $674,993 share, while Ritchie will get $93,567.
Wood County Clerk Mark Rhodes says the county will still need to come up with about $800,000 in matching funds to replace its current voting machines.
The grants are meant “to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including the enhancement of election technology and making election security improvements,” according to a new release from West Virginia secretary of State Mac Warner’s office.
The $6.5 million allocated to the counties will result in more than $12.6 million in new election systems and physical and cyber security upgrades throughout the state, Warner’s office said.
Warner's office said the state secured approximately $3.6 million in federal funding under the Help America Vote Act in April 2018.
Combined with $2.9 million that was repurposed from the former HAVA loan fund, which was modified by the Legislature in 2018 into a loan and grant fund, Warner established a grant-application process to distribute 100 percent of the available $6.5 million in HAVA funds to West Virginia counties.
Depending on the items requested, counties are required to supply a percentage of matching funds to “leverage the overall enhancement of election technology and security in West Virginia,” the release said.
“Any time we can secure federal money to help our county clerks leverage additional local funding to address election security, we’re going to do our best to get it,” Warner said. “The upgrades and improvements that will be made because of this funding will continue to increase confidence in our election system at the local level.”