UNION COUNTY, NJ – The county is providing additional training seminars for new voting machines ahead of the general election. During the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders board meeting Thursday night, Board of Elections Administrator Nicole DiRado explained how the county is working to ensure a smooth transition to the new machines.
“We’ve been in every town throughout the county,” DiRado said, noting that the county has held 140 public demonstrations of the machines in nine towns between January and June. DiRado said an additional 153 outreach events have been planned to take place between the primary and general election.
“As people are calling, we are going […] my motto is, if there’s two voters on a corner and they want us to be there, we’ll bring a machine,” DiRado remarked. “It’s been going very well, and the reception has been positive.”
In addition to the public demonstrations, DiRado said the county is holding several for new and returning poll-workers.
When and where can I test out the machines?
Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski encouraged anyone who wishes to test out the machines to call the Board of Elections or check the county website.
“There are many, many opportunities to try out these machines,” she said.
How many machines has the county purchased?
The county has purchased a total of 475 voting machines, DiRado said, including 432 to be used on election day, 10 to be used for training purposes, and 33 to be used in cases where high turnout requires an additional machine in a particular district.
Who is providing the machines?
The county signed a contract to purchase the machines from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), a company based in Omaha, Nebraska.
The freeholder board voted unanimously on a resolution that purchases the balance of the machines, which is slated to cost approximately $2.95 million. The entire purchase is expected to cost an amount not exceeding $4.85 million. Freeholder Vice Chair Alexander Mirabella was not present during the meeting.
DiRado explained that this contract includes the purchase of the 475 machines, several central tabulators that program and read the ballots, and technical support staff from ES&S.
During the primary, five support representatives from ES&S were dispatched to the Board of Elections’ office, warehouse, and voting locations where the county felt poll-workers would require additional support.
“If we need more [supporters], they will send us more,” DiRado said. “All we have to do is ask.”
Where have the machines already been in use?
As reported earlier this year, the machines were piloted in Westfield during the 2018 general election, and were expanded to the following towns during the primaries: Berkeley Heights, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Garwood, Kenilworth, Mountainside, Union and Winfield.
Meanwhile, the following towns will begin using the new machines during the general election: Clark, Cranford, Hillside, Linden, New Providence, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield and Summit.
After the piloting in Westfield, the county conducted a risk limiting audit to determine the accuracy of the vote counts. “We had 100 percent accuracy with the sample that we tested,” DiRado said.
The county conducted a hand-to-eye vote count after the primary, which was also 100 percent accurate with relation to the machine count. “We did that ourselves as a practice for what will likely be an open public event following the general election this year,” DiRado said.
How accessible are the machines?
During the public comment portion of the freeholder board meeting, Garwood resident Bruce Paterson raised a question of whether the text displayed by the machines is printed in a legible size.
“We have been all over the county with this machine,” DiRado responded, adding that the county has tested the machines with senior groups, an advocacy group for disabled community, and a federal ADA committee, who says “the machine complies with what is required for ADA accessibility.”