Four southwest Virginia counties updating voting machine technology


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Absentee voting for Virginia's general election started Friday, but people heading to the polls in November will notice a different type of voting machine in four southwest Virginia counties.

Two years ago, Governor Terry McAuliffe requested $28 million to replace all touch screen voting machines, or Direct Electronic Recording Machines (DREs), with a more secure paper ballot. The General Assembly denied his request at the time, but it turns out Governor McAuliffe is finally getting his wish just in time for the election to replace him.

The new voting machines are called Optical Scan Cote Counters, and they work just like the standardized tests you took back in high school.

"Voters will have a paper ballot and they will fill in the circle beside the name of the candidate they wish to vote for," Derek Lyall, the Washington County, Virginia's Director of Elections, says.

Virginia has a new law phasing out the DREs in favor of paper ballots by 2020. However, earlier this month, the state election board pushed that deadline up to require them by the November election.

"There have been concerns that the DRE machines lack a paper trail that can be audited and reviewed if necessary following an election," Lyall says.

Four counties in southwest Virginia (Washington, Lee, Russell, Tazewell) are making the transitions and the money for the new machines comes from taxpayers.

"The total cost for Washington County will be just over $200,000," Lyall says.

It's a cost this voter says is worth the peace of mind.

"Put peoples' minds at ease a little better especially with all the conflict we have going on now," Debbie Tribusky says.

But not every voter is convinced it's the right move.

"I'm not so worried about hacking as much as I am people having their way with the ballot that's not being supervised as closely as it possibly should be," Dale S. Cook says.

The third and final gubernatorial debate will be streamed live on News 5 on Oct. 9.