Compliance costs county $250K

The county Board of Elections decided Monday to buy 18 optical scanning, paper ballot machines for a
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The county Board of Elections decided Monday to buy 18 optical scanning, paper ballot machines for about $250,000 to comply with federal requirements for use by handicapped voters by this September and November elections.

County Elections Commissioners Clifford Hay and Lewis Wilson said they are hopeful the machines, the ImageCast Ballot Marker system, will also be approved as the standard for all voters for the 2009 elections.

Assuming the machines, made by Sequoia Voting Systems, are approved by the state Board of Elections for all voters, the county may buy more to fully replace all the old lever-operated machines next year.

Initially, however, the new machines will be placed in all 16 polling places for the September primaries to allow handicapped voters access throughout the county, according to Hay. Two extra machines will be available for backup.

Among the reasons the ImageCast machine was selected, Hay said, was that it could be delivered quickly without modifications that are still pending on the other two machines certified Thursday by the state Board of Elections.

Hay said the company has also promised to make any modifications that might become necessary.

“We think this will work well,” Wilson said. He said state officials told him the ImageCast model is being chosen by most counties this year.

The choice also drew praise from Wayne Stinson, coordinator of the Voting Integrity Project of The Peacemakers of Schoharie County.

The group has been actively urging the county to select a machine that reads and records individual paper ballots, rather than electronic touch-screen type machines.

“We’re very pleased that the machines that were approved for disabled access are compatible with paper ballots,” Stinson said Monday.

Stinson said he saw the new machine last week during a state Board of Elections display in Saratoga.

“I haven’t seen it in action, so we have yet to see how it works … but the concept it offers is a ballot-marking system.

“It’s not going to be wasted, so it’s a step in the right direction,” Stinson said.

County officials, including Board of Supervisors Chairman Earl Van Wormer III, also inspected the machine at the Saratoga display.

According to elections officials, the new machine will allow voters to mark an individual paper ballot, then feed it into the machine. After voters are given a chance to check their vote or make changes, the approved ballot will drop anonymously into a sealed box.

Each ballot will cost the county about $1 for printing costs, Hay noted. At least 20,000 ballots will be needed for each election, according to Wilson.

“We’re sending in our order now,” Wilson said.

The machines, which Wilson said will be assembled in Sequoia’s Jamestown plant, will be ordered through the state Board of Elections.

The machines will first be delivered to the state board in Albany for checking, then counties will arrange to get them, he said.

In the last election, a different handicapped-accessible machine was placed in the County Office Building in Schoharie.

Although required by federal election law, only “one or two [handicapped] people used it,” Wilson said Monday.

“Most [handicapped voters] preferred to vote absentee … even though we offered to pick them up,” Wilson said.

“So we had to spend $250,000 for seven or 10 people,” he said.

The cost of the machines will be paid by the state from federal Help America Vote Act funds, according to the county commissioners.

The machine used last year was not among the three machines certified last Thursday by the state Board of Elections.

Most of the seven to 10 voters who tried the machine last year in the county building were county workers, according to officials.

Wilson said the county Board of Elections will order the machines

The new machines being ordered are bulky and weigh at least 150 pounds, so the county still has to decide on a place to store them, according to officials.

Categories: Schenectady County

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