Whew! Jeffco Commissioners Relieved to Learn They Wouldn’t Be on the Hook for New Election Tablets

Jefferson County commissioners’ concerns that a state Senate bill requiring new election technology would cost the county money proved to be unfounded.

The Alabama County Commission Association had fired off a red alert to county commissions about the possibility that Senate Bill 108 might cost counties.

“It turns out there is some federal money for this that the ACCA was not aware of,” Jefferson County Registrar Barry Stephenson said. “So as far as affecting the general fund of Jefferson County, it doesn’t. It all got worked out.”

Stephenson said he was told of the ACCA email five minutes before the commission’s committee meeting on Tuesday. He was asked how Jefferson County would be affected if it had to buy the tablet-based program.

Senate Bill 108 was thought to assign the cost of tablet-based election equipment to individual counties and cities. Stephenson estimated a cost of more than $300,000 to equip all of Jefferson County.

Jefferson County was part of a pilot program conducted during the 2016 presidential election. Two precincts were equipped with electronic poll books, which allowed voters to more quickly go through the line; the tablet has the entire voting list for the precinct, and voters would not have to go to alphabetized lines.

“We really liked it,” the registrar said. “It helped move the lines. We’d like to expand that. There is some federal money available to expand this program.”

Stephenson said the decision to get the equipment lies with the election commission that includes Judge Alan L. King and Sheriff Mike Hale.

“They would move forward if they want to expand it and then work out getting that federal money to pay for it,” Stephenson said. “But as far as us on the Board of Registrars, we would like to see it expanded.”

Related story:

Jefferson County Commissioners Stunned by News of Possible Election-Related Expenses