JoCo Election Office will spend $13 million on new voting machines that provide paper trail

Johnson County’s voting machines have been in use since 2002.

Election officials across the country have been raising concerns in recent months about the vulnerability of aging voting systems to hacking.

Here in Johnson County, the Election Office is hoping to have many of the most common security concerns addressed by the August primaries.

The Board of County Commissioners has approved the allocation of more than $13 million for the purchase of new voting machines that will replace the current equipment that’s been in use for more than 15 years.

Through last November’s elections, the Johnson County Election Office has been using touch-screen voting machines that were first purchased and put into use during the early years of the Bush administration. Among the most concerning issues with the county’s current equipment is that it provides no paper backup, meaning voters have no way to verify that their votes are being tallied as cast. Kansas is one of just 14 states where such equipment is still in use.

“[We] are using the voting equipment that was purchased in 2002,” said Johnson County Election Office Administrator Nathan Carter. “That equipment does not produce a ballot-by-ballot paper trail.”

With the budget allocated by the county commissioners, the Election Office will be purchasing machines that have a voter-verified paper audit trail, giving area voters the ability to confirm their votes are recorded as intended.

Though there’s no formal timeline in place for selecting the new equipment, acquiring it, and getting election workers trained on it, Carter said the intent is to have it up and running for the primaries five months from now.

“We are working diligently to have the new equipment purchased and deployed for the primary election in August,” Carter said.