Voting machines to get upgraded

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Mississippi’s voting machines may be getting upgraded soon. Twenty-four counties have requested and received approval to spend funds from the $4.5 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money allocated by the federal government for upgrades to voting machines and other elections improvements.  In total, more than $1.15 million has been requested and approved.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, in connection with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the federal oversight agency, announced the availability of the new HAVA funds back in April 2018. The State match for the $4.5 million grant was 5 percent, or $224,117, which was met through existing Secretary of State’s Office funds.

The State used part of the funds to continue efforts to update the Statewide Elections Management System’s (SEMS) software and hardware.  Approximately $4 million was divided among counties based on voting age population.

“We asked counties to think about their voting machines and facility needs at precincts, as well as their cybersecurity needs, to include ensuring every polling place is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Hosemann said.

HAVA funds allocated to counties must be spent by December 31, 2020.  After this date, money will be made available to counties on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The federal government requires the money be exhausted by March 22, 2023.

Hosemann said local election officials have the authority to decide how best to employ money received. They submit expenditures to the Secretary of State’s Office, which is reimbursing counties for approved expenses.  Expenditures are limited to items and activities which will improve elections, including the purchase of new voting machines or voting equipment, training for post-election procedures, cybersecurity audits, enhancement of a county’s network, and disability access at precincts.

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