Election commissioner recommends purchase of 2,100 new machines that produce ‘verifiable paper vote record’

The county’s current equipment has been in use since 2002. The election office plans to replace them ahead of the August primaries.

Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker on Thursday presented the board of county commissioners with a recommendation to purchase 2,100 new ExpressVote voting machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software with the intent to put them into use in the August primaries.

The board is expected to formally vote on Metsker’s request for the expenditure of $10.5 million on the new machines, which will provide a verifiable paper audit trail — a feature notably absent from the current equipment, at its meeting May 17.

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker with one of the ExpressVote consoles. Photo credit Johnson County.

Election office leaders have been exploring options for replacing the aging voting system for years. In 2015, Johnson County collaborated with Shawnee, Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties — a coalition of the four largest counties in the state — to issue a joint request for proposal for new equipment. County officials say putting the bid out with the three other counties helped secure a deal for the new machines that came in significantly under the $13 million the board had initially allocated for the purchase.

“By collaborating on this request for proposal with Shawnee, Sedgwick and Wyandotte counties, we are seeing much greater efficiencies for all four counties,” Metsker said in a statement.

The ExpressVote system provides voters with a blank piece of paper — a “vote summary card” — that they feed into the console prior to starting the voting process. They then use a touch screen to select the candidates for whom they wish to vote. Once they’ve made their choices, voters have the option of reviewing their selections as printed on their vote summary card — the verifiable paper vote record — before re-inserting the card into the machine for tabulation.

“A human- and machine-readable vote summary card is produced, including text and an optical scan barcode, after voters have made all of their selections,” reads Election Systems & Software’s marketing materials for the system. “The ExpressVote as a tabulator scans the vote summary card for tabulation.”

Assuming the board signs off on the purchase in its vote next week, the election office expects for the first 1,000 new machines to arrive sometime in June. The county plans to set up demonstrations of the new machines for people who want to try them out before election day. The 1,000 machines should be enough to handle the voters in the lower-turnout primaries. All 2,100 machines are planned to be operational for the November general election.