Franklin County, meet your new voting machines.
The county board of elections will hold a series of public events over the next few months around central Ohio to introduce residents to the new machines before their first official use in May.
"We'll be holding events throughout the county to get voters a chance to come out and look at and familiarize themselves with our new voting equipment," said Aaron Sellers, public-information officer for the board of elections.
The first demonstrations will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Grandview Heights Public Library, 1685 W. First Ave.
Two more sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Upper Arlington Public Library, 2800 Tremont Road.
Further sessions are set from 10 a.m. to noon and 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Grove City Public Library, 3959 Broadway; 2 to 4 p.m. March 18 at the Westerville Public Library, 128 S. State St.; and 10 a.m. to noon and 7 to 9 p.m. April 16 at the Old Worthington Library, 820 High St.
Even more demonstrations are being scheduled at other central Ohio library locations, Sellers said.
In addition, the board of elections will set up a voting-machine lab at its headquarters, 1700 Morse Road in Columbus, where residents can learn about and test the new equipment during regular business hours, he said.
The lab is expected to open in late February, Sellers said.
Board of elections representatives also will demonstrate the machines over the next few months during council meetings throughout the county, he said.
"People will be able to take a look at the machines and try it out themselves by casting votes on frivolous issues, like what is their favorite color," Sellers said. "They'll be able to look at the paper ballot and see how they will cast their vote using the paper ballots."
Sellers said the new machines fulfill some voters' consistent call for paper ballots.
"The main difference between these new machines and the ones we used before is that these offer a hybrid system that allows people to vote electronically or using paper ballots if they wish," he said. "We know that there are a lot of people who have expressed concerns and a desire to use paper ballots, and these machines will allow them to do that."
Voters still will be able to use a touchscreen to cast their ballots, but they can choose to receive a paper ballot as they sign in to vote, he said.
The paper ballot would include a bar code.
"You still use the touchscreen to mark your choices with the paper ballot, but you're not actually casting your vote," Sellers said. "You'll get the paper ballot, have a chance to review it and then deposit it in a machine that will read the bar code as you're leaving the building. That's when your paper ballot vote would be cast."
The board of elections chose to roll out the new machines in 2019 because it is an off-year election, with mainly local issues and candidates on ballots, he said.
"We're hoping to spread the word about the new machines to as many people as we can, but we know that most voters will be seeing the equipment for the first time when they come out to vote in November 2020," Sellers said.
In November, the board of elections approved purchasing about 3,200 machines for about $12 million from Election Systems & Software, a Omaha, Nebraska company, Sellers said. The board used $10 million in state funds that were dispersed to counties based on population, he said. The county provided the remaining $2 million.
The new machines began to be delivered in late January and most should be in place by May, Sellers said.
The new equipment will replace all of the machines the county has used for the past 12 years. Those older models also were manufactured by ES&S.
Katina Granger, public-relations manager with ES&S, said the company was "honored" to partner with Franklin County "to ensure the administration of fair and accurate elections."
"The ES&S accessible voting solution combines paper-based voting with touch-screen technology to meet the needs of voters with disabilities, as well as provide a verifiable paper record for each voter," she said. "The system controls, limits and detects unauthorized access to all critical data, and (it) also includes safeguards that help protect sensitive data and verify authenticity."