Video: Counties Prep Voting Machines for Upcoming Elections

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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — A report from the Brennan Center for Justice shows many states across the country are using old, outdated voting machines.

With the general election just a few days away, how do Mississippi and Alabama fare? And what’s being done to prevent any issues?

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WCBI turned to local elections officials for answers.

Lowndes County Circuit Court Clerk Haley Salazar prepares for one last election.

Just like Salazar, she says these voting machines have served the county well.

“In 2006, the state sponsored an initiative to purchase new voting equipment,” Salazar said. “They secured some federal funds after the Help America Vote Act passed,”

Salazar says even though the machines are older, they take good care of them.

“I think the key in having voting equipment is doing your preventative maintenance, and we’ve had preventative maintenance done on it just this year,” she said.

From punch cards, to precinct scanners, and now touch screens, voting machines have come a long way. But that’s not the case in neighboring Alabama.

“It’s like a vehicle with 100,000 miles on it. That’s what we’re operating on,” said Pickens County Probate Judge John Paluzzi.

The voting machines in Pickens County are about 15 years old, and Paluzzi says they’re ready for an upgrade.

“The ones we have are big, they’re heavy, they’re cumbersome,” he said. “They require a lot of storage space, and as they get older, they need more servicing.”

Pickens County still uses paper ballots, which can cause technical issues sometimes if the voter can’t insert the ballot into the machine.

“These machines are moisture sensitive, and the ballots have a tendency if they’re stored in the wrong place,” Paluzzi said.

And maintenance can get expensive, even though the cost varies from year to year.

“And not just the service people that come in to take care of the machines, and do the annual maintenance on them,” Paluzzi said. “We also have the cost of using people, and renting vehicles to haul the machines from precinct to precinct.”

New machines, of course, also cost money.

Paluzzi says they’ll request funding next summer to get new ones for the 2016 presidential election.

“Out of the 68 counties in Alabama, a little bit less than half are using about the same thing we’re using,” he said. “In the last couple of years, a lot of counties have gone ahead and purchased new machines.”

Paluzzi’s next election in Pickens County isn’t until March.

Salazar says they’ll have a county technician on standby if they have any issues on Election Day next Tuesday.