Secretary of State Mark Martin has been talking about replacing voting machines with a new electronic system for at least two years. A statewide replacement for the 2016 primary was superseded by a phase-in of replacements.

Now, counties are learning, they’ll have to share the cost of machine replacements for the 2018 election.


A letter this week from his chief deputy, Kelly Boyd, said Martin had been told by Gov. Asa Hutchinson that he could make only a maximum of $5 million available for machine purchases and that money is not available yet. Martin said he could add $1 million from office money.

The letter continues:


The governor has specified he wishes the money to be available on a 50/50 basis to ensure it goes as far as possible. Therefore, each county will qualify for patent by the secretary of state for 50 percent of the costs for purchasing new equipment ad the county will be responsible for patent of 50 percent.

Mark Martin has told each county what each must provide in the way of equipment and what the costs will be. He said counties also must pay sales taxes due. The secretary of state will pay for maintenance of that equipment.

More to come on this story, including questions about Martin’s management of the process from the start. But many counties are likely to object that they don’t have the money to meet the cost-share. Primary elections are less than a year away.