Franklin County voters can say good-bye to the infamous “fill in the arrow” ballots of the past decade.
Court election officials expect to debut new vote tabulating gear in the Aug. 1 primary. For voters, the biggest change will be the ballot itself.
Instead of completing an arrow, voters will indicate their choice through the more common practice of filling in a bubble. The “arrow” ballots are read by optical scanners while the “bubble” ones are processed by digital equipment.
It’s part of a modernization that will retire an antiquated system running on Windows XP and make the elections department more efficient, say officials.
The Franklin County Commission is expected to sign off on the $163,500 system when it meets June 7. The commission reviewed the plan during its regular session Wednesday.
Matt Beaton, Franklin County’s elected auditor, said the upgrade is a no-brainer. It costs more to maintain the old system than to replace it.
Franklin County bought the current system in 2005, leveraging money from the federal Help America Vote Act, to make the purchase. Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP and the system costs about $50,000 annually to maintain.
In contrast, the new system from Dominion Voting Systems will cost about $23,000 annually to maintain, with the first year included in the purchase cost.
“When you reach the point where the cost of maintenance can fund a replacement, it’s really that simple,” Beaton said.
When you reach the point where the cost of maintenance can fund a replacement, it’s really that simple.
Matt Beaton, Franklin County Auditor
Franklin was one of five Washington counties that bought XP-based tabulating machines in 2005. Three of the counties have replaced them, leaving Franklin as one of the few left on the “complete the arrow” system.
“It’s time to upgrade them,” said Beaton.
Voters will encounter the new approach in less than 10 weeks.
The Aug. 1 primary ballot in Franklin currently includes six primary contests — races with three or more candidates.
Unless some candidates withdraw between now and then, the primary will include two Pasco School Board positions, two Pasco City Council positions, one Othello School District position and one on the Connell City Council.
Local dollars, including $40,000 stashed in a special account for elections equipment, will cover the cost.
The county elections department is responsible for conducting elections under the state constitution.
It splits the cost to run elections with the entities on the ballot. The new investment could have some bearing on the amount cities, school districts and other voting entities pay to run elections.