When you cast your vote on election day, you will have a choice to vote either on paper or by using an electronic machine — the same one that have been used in Harvey County since 2006.

"We use an older technology," said Harvey County Clerk Rick Piepho. "...I've looked at new equipment, but it's not really in the budget."

Updating election machines is not just a question of money, but of whether there is a need for it.

"The equipment we have works, and I don't agree with some others that just because it's old, it needs to be replaced," Piepho said. "...It still functions and the vendor still supports it."

Harvey County's current election machines were purchased using federal funding tied to the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

"Part of that was there had to be a handicap-accessible way to vote at every polling place," Piepho said.

At that time, Harvey County had 36 polling places, so 36 electronic voting machines were added. The machines are intentionally set up at a height that is lower than average, but can also be adjusted for voters who use wheelchairs if needed.

Vision-impaired voters can access an audio ballot on the machine by using headphones.

"Instead of using the screen, there are some buttons at the bottom that are braille," Piepho said.

The voting machine screen is also responsive to a special mouth stick.

"If they can't use their hands, they can use this mouth stick to touch the screen," Piepho said.

After 2006, poll sites were consolidated and Harvey County now has 12 voting locations.

"Part of HAVA is that poll sites have to be handicap-accessible," Piepho said. "There's a lot of other rules about poll sites and, at the time, some of these poll sites were in people's garages."

Even with the consolidation, voters do not have to go more than five miles to a polling place.

"It was the right thing to do, plus, it consolidated the equipment," Piepho said.

Worries about electronic machines being hacked are baseless, Piepho said, because it would take hours of work and special media to change the results on just one machine.

"There's a lot of false media out there about this equipment, about elections in general and the security of elections. Nobody has actually hacked and changed the votes of an election," Piepho said. "...The scenario is really unlikely."

Many Harvey County voters — around 50 percent — prefer marking a paper ballot.

"It doesn't matter," Piepho said. "We offer both options and we don't push one or the other."

Being able to program and print the ballots in house gives Piepho the ability to judge what is needed for each election.

"By programming and printing our own (ballots), we save about $10,000 per election, which is a significant amount of money," Piepho said.

While other counties may use different election machines at their polling places, Piepho and his 67 poll workers work to ensure all Harvey County voters are able to select the candidate they want.

"Every vote matters," Piepho said.

Early voting is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 5 at the Harvey County Courthouse, 800 N. Main St. in Newton. For more information about elections, visit https://www.harveycounty.com/departments/elections.html or call 316-284-6842.