A recently acquired grant is helping McCracken County update its election technology by funding the purchase of 46 new voting machines for the clerk’s office.

McCracken was granted $535,000 through Center For Tech and Civic Life’s COVID-19 Response program.

When McCracken County Clerk Julie Griggs became aware of the possibility of the grant, she thought “it was just too good to be true. There’s no way and after checking into it and talking with a couple other counties that had gotten the grant … and this (was) the real thing. It’s a huge load off the county that we got this.”

The 40 functional machines in the county’s possession — down from the 54 purchased in 2008 — had reached the end of their life expectancy, Griggs told the Sun Tuesday.

“Really about 10 years is what you hope to get out of them. So really we were going to have to replace those anyway. There’s no doubt about it,” she said. “With the budget being so tight anyway with pension issues and other things, it wasn’t going to be easy to come up with the money to fund (the replacement).

“I’m just so very thankful for this.”

CTCL is a publicly funded nonprofit supported by Google, Facebook, Rock The Vote, the Center for Civic Design and the Voting Information Project, among several others. The nonprofit has awarded over 2,500 grants to election offices around the country this year to help cover election expenses to make the voting process safer and more secure in locales across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballard, Calloway and Graves counties also received grants from CTCL this fall.

While the original quoted price for these Harp voting machines was $517,065, the county saw a reduction to $465,858.50 with the trade-in discount of their old machines applied. The leftover funds — somewhere in the neighborhood $70,000 — were applied to the county’s 2020 general election expenditures, including paying for individual voter postcards with voting options and the payment of precinct workers.

County commissioner Bill Bartleman called the grant a “big win” for McCracken during Monday’s fiscal court meeting, when the purchase of the machines was approved.

The new machines will not change anything for most voters. They are basically a “newer, better” version of what the county already has, allowing more efficient, reliable ballot entry. There will be added functionality in terms of handicap accessibility as voters will be able to — if necessary — fill out a ballot using one of the new machines, which will then print a prepared paper ballot for entry — an option previously unavailable.

These machines should be able to service the entirety of McCracken County, Griggs explained, after it undergoes a scheduled redistricting process in the coming year. That should take the number of voting precincts down from 54 to somewhere in the mid-40s.

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