Note: This story appears in the Friday, Aug. 16 newspaper on Page A3.
A new storage area for voting equipment has allowed the Athens County Board of Elections to regain office space it lost when the equipment was delivered.
The last of 70 large voting machines made the move Tuesday to a storage area created in the basement of the Courthouse Annex, the building where the elections office is located. The new machines were delivered in April to the county-owned Atco building, where they were assembled and tested by the seller, at which point they were turned over to the county and moved to the elections office.
Although it made the office cramped, County Elections Director Debbie Quivey and Deputy Director Penny Brooks objected to storing the machines at Atco for security reasons. They also stated the machines (which have vote tabulators) were required to be kept in the elections office.
County Commissioner Charlie Adkins proposed repurposing some the basement rooms for storage of the machines, and Quivey said she got it OK’d by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. County maintenance staff made a connecting door between two basement rooms, painted the rooms and upgraded the electrical service to handle charging of the machines.
“It turned out nice downstairs,” Quivey said. “The only concern we have is the elevator.”
Athens County has 56 precincts. During a countywide election that number of voting machines — possibly more in next year’s presidential election — will be removed from the basement by elevator (two at a time) for transport to the polls. If the elevator were to break down, the machines would have to be carried up from the basement by hand, Quivey said.
At their meeting Tuesday, the county commissioners approved purchase of a 26-foot covered trailer at a cost of $7,838 for transporting the machines to the polls. In past years, the county has leased two trucks for that purpose, which in 2018 cost $5,213.
The original idea was to buy two trailers, but the commissioners decided to initially buy one. The cost of two would be offset in about five years from truck rental savings.
Adkins said there is a safety issue, both for employees and the election equipment. Lift gates on the trucks are used to load the equipment. The new voting machines are top-heavy, which creates more of a risk of the voting machines and county employees falling. With the trailers, the machines can be pushed up a ramp for loading.
The voting machines cost $4,670 apiece (they were purchased with state money).
Adkins noted that the trailer will be available for other uses when elections are not taking place.