FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The need to replace voting machines in Kentucky was at the forefront of discussion at a legislative committee meeting on Monday.
Representatives of the Kentucky County Clerk’s Association appeared before the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.
Spencer County Clerk Lynn Hesselbrock testified there are only two types of machines allowed in Kentucky.
“The Direct Recording Electronic device, or DRE, where a person casts their votes by using a dial or a touch screen. This is a machine that is used exclusively in Fayette and one other county, and also appears in about 75 percent of the counties.”
There is a problem with the DRE device, Hesselbrock said: “They cannot produce a paper audit trail.”
“The other is a ballot scanning device, where a person is given a paper ballot, they mark it and it is scanned into the machine,” she said.
She told lawmakers that the State Board of Elections passed a resolution last year which suggests that any new voting equipment purchased by the counties be able to produce a paper audit trail.
Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, said having no paper trail irked him. “If there’s no way to recount a particular precinct or the whole election, it’s a concern to anyone running for office and anybody in the state.”
Don Blevins, Jr., the Fayette County Clerk, said current voting machines are nearing the end of their useful life.
“Most of the hardware was purchased about 10 to 12 years ago using Help America Vote Act funds, so nearly the entire state’s hardware inventory is 10 to 12 years old.”
Committee member, Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, wondered why not require every county to have the same machines, making it easier when you need back-ups? “If one machine went down in Henry County, perhaps one could be driven over quickly from Oldham County?”
“It’s theoretically possible,” Blevins said. “In many ways we do that today, even though there are two vendors.”
Nemes also suggested having a statewide contract for voting machines. “I know we can’t do that over the next one to three elections, but long term we need to be unifying our hardware to save money and integrity of the ballot.”
Hesselbrock said one piece of legislation they’d like to seek enacted this year was vetoed by Gov. Matt Bevin last year. “Closing the loophole in voter registration, where a person could cancel their current voter registration, then re-register as a new applicant, in order to vote in the primary.”
She says the other item on their wish list is allowing county clerks to email absentee ballot applications, instead of sending them via the Postal Service.
“The USPS sometimes has long delays getting the application out, getting it back. If we are able to email the application, that should shorten the time.”
Hasselbrock said there are instances of it taking 20 days in the mail.