New voting machines to improve voting in Fairfax County

Sophie Ho, special to

WASHINGTON — Residents of Fairfax County will be able to use a new voting machines in this upcoming November election, the first such comprehensive equipment replacement in more than a decade.

The Fairfax County Office of Elections purchased 1,125 voting machines from Election Systems and Software, which includes 525 paper ballot scanning machines and 600 paper ballot generating machines, with the initial price at approximately $6.4 million.

The new equipment will provide and scan paper ballots for voters, and will also let voters know if their ballot is blank or they voted for more candidates than allowed in any race.

“Having a brand-new, fully integrated voting system for the county will make the voting process more efficient, secure and easy for Fairfax County voters,” said Electoral Board Secretary Brian Schoeneman in a statement.

In the 2012 presidential election, some Virginian voters had to wait for hours to cast their ballot, sparking complaints about old equipment among other concerns about how elections are run in the state.

“I believe that the (2012 election) was a very big driver behind this, primarily because it gave a lot of attention on the system that we have in Fairfax county,” Schoeneman said in an interview. “(It’s) a piecemeal system, which we’ve been basically picking at in bits and pieces for years.”

More recently, the purchase comes on the heels of an extensive vote recount in Virginia’s attorney general election last December after discrepancies were noted regarding the number absentee ballots cast in Fairfax county.

Schoeneman said that the recount for the attorney general election would have been more efficient with the new machines, which provide a paper trail for auditing election results.

The Bipartisan Election Process Improvement Commission recommended in March 2013 that the county install new machines before the 2016 presidential election. Voters will have the opportunity to test drive the machines beginning in August, at which time election officer training will also begin.

WTOP’s John Aaron contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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