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FAYETTEVILLE -- Election commissioners from seven counties in Northwest Arkansas decided Wednesday to ask legislators to pay for new software and equipment before the November elections.

Commissioners said they are worried upgrades won't happen before the general election Nov. 8. Equipment and software are old and could break down, commissioners said during the Northwest Arkansas County Boards of Election Commissioners meeting.

"We are in a dire situation," said Bill Taylor, Crawford County commissioner.

"The old stuff is gradually failing," said John Lyon, Crawford County commission chairman.

The group plans to draft a letter to send to legislators covering Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Madison, Sebastian and Washington counties. The money to upgrade equipment must come by July to prepare for the November election, said Bill Ackerman, Washington County commission chairman.

The Legislature passed Act 151 of 2015, allowing the Arkansas secretary of state to replace election equipment up to $30 million, but no money was set aside to pay for it. The money was expected to come from the governor's general improvement fund, Ackerman said.

The secretary of state paid for a $2.5 million pilot program and replaced voting equipment for Boone, Columbia, Garland and Sebastian counties, according to a June news release from the office.

A letter sent recently to Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicated the governor's plate is full with other issues, Ackerman said. The money would have to come from somewhere else to pay for equipment by the next major election, he said.

"The governor's office is out of the mix right now," he said.

The Northwest Arkansas group must work together to make legislators understand the need, Ackerman said. The software is no longer supported, and equipment is difficult to come by, commissioners and election coordinators said Wednesday.

Election commissions would be forced to downsize if nothing changes, meaning fewer voting machines and longer lines, commissioners said.

The new effort is a unified push for funding, commissioners said. The group also plans to send a template letter to other counties in the hope they will voice concern, said Jennifer Price, Washington County Election Commission coordinator.

The idea is to "hit the whole state," Price said. The more counties take up the issue, the more likely lawmakers will understand the anticipated problems, commissioners said.

Metro on 04/16/2016

Print Headline: 7 election commissioners ask state for new poll equipment

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