Now that the midterm elections are finally over, the 2024 presidential election looms large.

Already, several candidates have announced their 2024 plans, including U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., who plans to challenge Democrat Joe Manchin for the Mountain State’s U.S. Senate seat. And state Treasurer Riley Moore on Tuesday announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Locally, voters in Mercer County can expect a big change come 2024 at their normal polling precincts.

The Mercer County Commission voted earlier this month to use $241,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, and another $250,000 in coal severance funding, for the purchase of new voting machines. The county also received a Help America Vote Act grant that will be used to cover the remainder of the cost.

County Clerk Verlin Moye said the new machines are manufactured by ES&S out of Omaha, Nebraska. He says the goal is to have them ready and in use for the 2024 May primary.

“The money has been secured,” Moye said. “I have put the ES&S Company on notice that we have the funds, and the next step is to get these machines in here and start training.”

Moye said the older voting machines that have been used in Mercer County were nearing the end of their 20-year-life span.

Of course, election security is still a concern for some. Moye says the new voting machines are not connected to the internet. Thus there is no way a foreign government or other unauthorized entity could gain access to ballots as they are being counted.

“It’s a nice system and it’s very secure,” Moye said of the new voting machines. “It’s been certified by the Federal Election Commission as well as the (West Virginia) State Election Commission, and it is the most widely used voting system in the United States today.”

The new machines will be similar to the ones now in use, but easier to read.

“There are different things you can do to enhance the reading capability, but they will insert the ballot and they will vote the ballot,” Moye said. “Then it will print after they have a chance to review (it). They will see what they actually voted a lot easier than they did with the paper roll on the old system. After they confirm that is in fact what they voted, they will go over and be assisted by poll workers on opposing parties, various parties, and run that through the scanner and it will record digitally how the voter had voted.”

At the end of an election night, a thumb drive will be used to upload the data from the scanner, according to Moye.

The good news is that there will be plenty of time for election officials, and the general public, to familiarize themselves with the new machines. Moye said training sessions also will be scheduled for poll workers and the general public.

Given that Mercer County’s existing voting machines were nearing the end of their life spans, the new machines are certainly needed. They will be put to good use come 2024.

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