Election Officials Learn About New Voting Equipment Requirements
Wednesday afternoon, Mississippi County County Clerk Janice Currie and Election Commissioners Tom Witorek and Melisa Logan traveled to Little Rock to meet with Secretary of State John Thurston, 20 other counties and the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners concerning the new voting equipment and the attainment of funds for the voting equipment.
The state of Arkansas allocated $8,246,573.12 to provide matching funds for all 21 counties that don’t currently have the new voting equipment.
“It was a very productive meeting. The main goal of the meeting was to hear from the counties and for them to kind of hear from us on where we are on this and a little bit of the history leading up to where we are now. We have 54 counties that have received the new equipment and we have 21 counties yet to receive the new equipment,”Thurston told the NEA Town Courier Thursday during a phone interview.
“During the legislative session, well, as soon as I was elected I began having conversations and after being sworn in having meetings with the governor (Asa Hutchinson), Senate Pro Tempore (Jim Hendren) and Speaker of the House (Matthew Shepherd) and asking for funds to help provide money for the 21 counties,” he said. “The price tag to complete those counties based on numbers we had from the previous administration (former secretary of state Mark Martin) was around $15 million. The legislators either couldn’t or did not want to do the full funding.”
Thurston continued, ”So, they asked that we put together a formula that would have the counties providing some cost-sharing on it. The formula actually came from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission that grades a county on their status.”
He said no county would pay more than 50 percent, and then depending on the county’s economic status the state is paying as much as 74 percent.
“The meeting was productive primarily to hear you know some counties can’t come up with their portion,” Thurston said. “That kind of puts us in a tough situation when we only have $8.2 million.”
He explained the state hadn’t received that money yet but it is supposed to be wired this month.
“We are optimistic,” Thurston added. “The goal is to have the machines purchased before the Primary election, which is in March, and as you know there will be a lot of moving parts that will need to be lining up for that to happen. Counties will need to be getting together on their end and then, of course, we are still waiting on the transfer of the funds. Then, of course, we will still have to have training that will take place after the machines are purchased for the counties to receive them. There is a lot that needs to happen to get this done by the Primary but that’s the goal. That’s what we would like to happen.”
According to Thurston, Mississippi County needs 52 machines. The state will pay $290,927.41 and Mississippi County will have to pay $102,056.68, which means the state match percentage is 74.
The total cost for the 52 machines in Mississippi County is $392,984.09.
“The meeting was very informative, however, a few counties were disgruntled concerning their inability to come up with matching funds, for equipment,” Logan said. “There seemed to be no concrete solution, however, they did release the amount allocated for each county. Mississippi County was funded at 392,984.09 which is 74 percent of the quoted need. I think the heavens were in our favor and walked away satisfied that our need would be met. Unlike some of the other counties, our Quorum Court, county judge, and legislators have been 100 percent in our corner for the procurement of quality, updated election materials. We are concerned about our voters.”