By Sam Metry
Clinton County Chatter staff reporter
ST. JOHNS — With the State of Michigan going through changes in election equipment in the near future, Clinton County faces a potential problem.
Clinton County Clerk Diane Zuker said that while the new equipment is needed, implementing it might be a problem.
“We would like the equipment to be the same county-wide,” said Zuker. “But the cities and townships are going to have to put up some of the money to pay for the new equipment. And if they’re paying for the equipment they’re going to want to have some say in what equipment they get.”
This is where the problem lies for Zuker.
“DeWItt might want different equipment than St. Johns,” said Zuker. “Which causes a problem for us as a county because we would have trouble keeping the equipment the same from city to city.”
However, some citizens see the benefit of having the system be uniform county-wide, Clinton County resident Beth Klein said.
“The system should be the same from city to city because it would probably cause the least margin of error,” said Klein. “Margin of error tends to be a big thing come election time.”
In July, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced that Michigan is beginning to replace all of the election equipment that is used in all 4,800 precincts in Michigan.
The equipment is over 10 years old, having been rolled out in 2004-2005 and Johnson said, in a press release, that she is hopeful to have the new equipment in place state-wide by August 2017. Some counties will get the new equipment in time for the 2016 general election.
In 2013, the Voting System Advisory Committee was established to take a look at the future voting concerns for the State of Michigan, Zuker said. The committee was made up of local and county clerks from counties and cities of varying size. Zuker was a member of the Software and Hardware subcommittee that sorted out technical issues.
The committee determined that the Bureau of Elections might be asking each precinct for $1,000 to $2,000 to help pay for the equipment, according to Zuker. This money will be added to the $25 million left from the Help America Vote Act, which paid for the election equipment from ten years ago.
Clinton County has 46 precincts which means that as a whole the county would have to pay up to $92,000 for new election equipment.
The committee looked at possibilities of renting election equipment and is working with legislators and the governor’s office to budget some state funds to make the cost of the new equipment more affordable, according to Zuker.
The problems with having multiple systems in place in one county is that it would create a significant amount of more work, Zuker said. The systems would not be able to work together and each system would have to be tallied separately then combined by hand instead of having all of the election results in the same system.
DeWitt City Clerk Lisa Grysen said that she has heard rumors of the county looking to make a change but hasn’t heard anything official yet.
“Right now all of Clinton County is uniform and all of the equipment is handled by the county,” said Grysen. “It’s really convenient for us and I would hate to have that change.”
St. Johns City Clerk Mindy Seavey said that no discussions have taken place about the new equipment and did not want to comment about what might happen.