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Gaston County Plans To Replace Some Aging Voting Machines

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Gaston County is making plans to replace some aging voting machines this year with help from a federal grant.

County election officials hope to swap out 55 machines designed for voters with disabilities, known as AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals.

Each machine has an audio function for people who are visually impaired, and a tube that voters can blow into if they can't use a touch screen. The machines can also operate in multiple languages, and they feature a zoom option for people with limited vision.

The current machines have been working fine, said Gaston County's director of elections, Adam Ragan, but he says they're getting old. More were purchased around 2004, and they're operating on outdated Windows XP software.

"Getting parts and trying to service Windows XP machines ... it's a challenge, and it's very expensive," Ragan said.

The county's board of elections hopes to replace the machines with newer versions from the same company, ES&S. The county would pay for the machines with a $185,912 federal grant it received earlier this year via the Help America Vote Act.

The county's board of elections plans to test the newer machines with a simulated election next Wednesday, March 10. Afterward, Ragan says he expects the board to make a final recommendation in favor of purchasing the machines to county commissioners.

If the Gaston County Commission approves the purchase, Ragan says he hopes to have the new machines by August, at the latest.

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