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New equipment set for Macon County elections

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Voters fill out their ballot for the primary election at the Concordia Lutheran Church polling place Tuesday, March 15, 2016.  The Macon County board unanimously approved the purchase of new voting equipment Thursday.

DECATUR -- With the election just under two months away, Macon County Clerk Steve Bean is hopeful that new equipment will reduce some challenges for voters and election judges.

After over a year of discussion, the Macon County board unanimously approved the purchase of $550,000 of new election equipment with Liberty Systems LLC, which will include dozens of voting machines and ballot scanners. In addition, the county will trade in its current election equipment for $25,000.

The new machines will come as a relief to Bean, who announced Thursday that he will not seek re-election and this will provide years of stability for his successor.

“I think this will make things a lot easier for everyone involved in the election process,” Bean said. “It’s going to leave the county in great shape.”

With Thursday night’s approval from the full county board, Liberty Systems Managing Partner Ken Gibson said the machines should begin to arrive next week.

The county clerk’s office has used a combination of equipment for at least a decade as technology advanced.

Bean said the equipment did its job when it first arrived, but struggles arose when state lawmakers passed new voter guidelines that were not all compatible with the equipment.

The new machines are much more user friendly, Bean said, providing large touch-screen voting and various features to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The hope is that the machines will speed up lines and lessen stress on election judges who must deal with the equipment.

The machines will be partially paid for through money collected from permits purchased for the county's wind farm project. The county will enter a payment plan, with full payment expected next year through additional money connected to the wind farm project.

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