Lincoln County ready for 2022 elections with new machines

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Seats for local judges and U.S. Congress Representatives will be up for election in 2022. Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Dustin Bairfield said the county is prepared with its new voting machines.

The Board of Supervisors approved purchase of new equipment in April for $206,370 from Election Systems & Software.

“It’s a little cheaper than we thought for the overall project,” Bairfield said of the bid at the time.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Federal grants covered the purchase of the equipment, said Bairfield. As circuit clerk, Bairfield serves as clerk of the Lincoln County Circuit Court, issues marriage licenses and administers elections.

The primary election will be June 7, followed by a June 28 runoff election, if necessary. The general election is November 8.

The county’s previous voting equipment was purchased new in 2006 and “served its purposed and was good,” Bairfield said. “They were never connected to the internet, so there was never a concern over hacking into sensitive information.”

But the life expectancy of these machines is only about 10 years. Replacing them after 15 years was a necessity.

The Department of Justice issued new guidelines in 2019 which specified federal grants to support local elections would only be issued if the voting equipment had a paper trail, Bairfield said. The county’s choice was based on which machines met the DOJ criteria, and selected the one that was used most widely in Mississippi and with the greatest ease of use for the voter.

The clerk said one factor was the cost of printing ballots. With the prior equipment, ballots cost approximately 30 cents each to print in-house, with ballots printed only for affidavits and curbside voting. The new equipment drops that cost to less than 5 cents per ballot. Although a ballot will be printed for each voter with the new system, the cost for the election will not increase. The total price of printing remains virtually the same, Bairfield said.

“We will have a precinct scanner at each of the 30 polling places, at a cost of about $5,500 each,” Bairfield said. “We will print paper ballots for approximately 75 percent of the active voter poll at each precinct. The average turnout is 55 to 60 percent.”

If precinct workers think more ballots will be needed, more can be printed and delivered quickly to the polling place. This reduces waste by printing no more ballots than are reasonably expected to be used.

The new equipment is ADA compliant, so anyone who may have trouble filling out a paper ballot can use a touchscreen to vote, and a paper ballot will then be printed. The voter can review his or her ballot to verify it shows they voted how they intended, then the ballot will be submitted.

The touchscreens can also be used in the event a paper ballot cannot be used for some reason, Bairfield said.

“The precinct scanner will be located by the exit door. The voter will insert their paper ballot and the scanner will verify it has been read correctly, or will notify the voter immediately if there is an issue, such as a smudge or something of that nature,” Bairfield said. “That’s a great thing. The voter will know immediately their vote has been counted correctly.”

At the end of election days, the scanners will also provide electronic totals that will then be used to verify the paper ballots.

“The Department of Justice wants actual, physical, hands-on verification,” the clerk said.

Another issue that may affect some voters in 2022 is redistricting of precincts in the county. By the end of 2022, redistricting will be complete and new voting cards will be mailed to every registered voter in Lincoln County. The cards will let voters know if anything has changed, including whether they will need to vote at a new polling place for future elections. The redistricting changes, if any, will take effect in 2023.

Offices up for election in 2022 include:

  • U.S. Representatives (2-year term)
  • Supreme Court, Court of Appeals Judge (staggered 8-year term)
  • Chancery Court Judge (4-year term)
  • Circuit Court Judge (4-year term)
  • County Court Judge (4-year term)
  • Lincoln County School Board members (staggered terms)