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Editorial: Election upgrade pricey but important

April 2, 2017 at 4 a.m.


It is hard to argue that elections are not the very bedrock that America is built on - the ability for American to choose their own government and representatives. It's difficult to bring to mind a more sacred and solemn duty than accurately, responsibly and ethically executing an election, which is why we are glad Harrison County Elections Administrator Mike McMurry has been working toward bringing the county's voting equipment into the 21st century to best serve residents, an action we hope the commissioners court will ultimately support.

McMurry has been lobbying commissioners for a while now to purchase new electronic voting system. The current devices the county uses are nearing their end of life and commissioners will soon have to decide whether to continue with a newer paper ballot system or upgrade to an all electronic voting system. McMurry, wisely, is pushing an all-electronic paperless model that would allow his office to pursue Vote Center certification with the Texas Secretary of State, which would allow voters the ability to cast their ballot at any polling place on Election Day.

Just imagine the confusion that would be eliminated by not having to redirect residents to various polling places around the county on Election Day. The county could also potentially cut down on the number of needed polling locations and workers. Additionally, the counting process would surely be quite a bit quicker and McMurry has said his office has already been having problems with the current equipment beginning to break down and require repairs.

All of these sound like pretty good reasons to upgrade to the new system, right?

The catch, as there so often is, is the cost. Initial estimate for the new system McMurry has in mind for the county would be in the $1 million range. Ouch. Commissioners are understandably aghast when a number with that many zeros in it is flashed before them.

But let's take a quick look at the actual breakdown. In August, the county passed its budget for fiscal year 2017 of $27.5 million, which included a tax hike of 2.15 percent. As long as our calculations are correct, what the new system would cost would shake out to be about 3.6 percent of the county's annual budget. And that's if the county paid for it in one fell swoop, which it surely would not. Spacing payments out over several years would bring the annual hit down even further to a more manageable level.

Is the cost associated with the newest voting system painful? You bet. But in today's climate of voter fraud claims being thrown around at all levels of the government, anything local municipalities can do to smooth out and shore up the voting process is essential. We think voters should have the smoothest experience possible with the most trustworthy equipment.

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