At its Jan. 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Elections approved ExpressVote for Early Voting. Used by 11 other N.C. counties, ExpressVote provides touchscreen ballot marking for voters to make their selections. Once confirmed, the ballot prints, giving voters one more opportunity to review prior to submitting. Buncombe County currently uses ExpressVote for early voters who request ADA access to voting.
With the vote approved, the Board of Elections is requesting 140 ExpressVote machines to allow 10 machines at each of the 14 Early Voting sites at a cost of $604,225 plus shipping. The estimated system lifespan of each machine is 15 years with an estimated $21,000 added to the required maintenance agreement ($150 per machine) in the future but not the first year. This request will become part of Election Services fiscal year 2024 budget request and must be approved and adopted by the Board of Commissioners prior to implementation.
Chair of the Board of Elections Jake Quinn notes ExpressVote is not a new mechanism, it is an expansion of a system we are already using. With the new machines voters will check-in with poll workers, give their name, and receive their ExpressVote ballot: a thin piece of paper with important precinct and vote information printed at the top. Voters will carry their ballot to voting booths and insert the paper into the ExpressVote machines. Selections are made on the touchscreen. Before printing their completed ballot, voters are prompted to review their selections and return to any race and make changes. The ExpressVote machine then prints selections on a paper ballot that can be reconfirmed by the voter. As with the previous voting process, voters will take their paper ballot to the DS200 tabulator machines, insert them, and receive their election sticker.
Election Services Director Corinne Duncan noted a change of this magnitude could be challenging to familiarize voters with the ExpressVote method and if approved by the Board of Commissioners, would continue partnering with the County Communications & Public Engagement team with a goal of a pilot in the Fall of 2023 and a full implementation in the 2024 Presidential Primary.
The approved request will go to FY24 budget consideration with the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.