Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Commissioners opt not to purchase additional eSlate machines!

In a surprising move, Tuesday, the County Commissioners acted not to authorize the expenditure of recently-acquired grant monies on additional eSlate computerized voting machines.

eSlate machines are the computerized touch-screens that are hailed by supporters as more efficient and criticized by opponents as not producing a verifiable paper trail.

During discussion of a contract to authorize the purchase of 54 additional eSlate and 10 additional eScan machines, Commissioner Craig Lehman, a democrat, offered an amendment to reject the purchase of any additional eSlate machines. And Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey, a republican, voted with him on rejecting the eSlates!

Lehman began by telling Mary Stehman, the Chief Clerk of the Board of Elections, "I would just humbly submit that accessible voting booths should be reserved for those who need them and that folks who do not need them should not be using them... simply because they like the machine."

Stuckey had been largely silent on the issue when NewsLanc raised it at both the worksession and meeting last week.

But on Tuesday he said, "I take very seriously the concerns about people and their ability to vote and have that vote counted accurately."

"As a former accountant, I like the paper and I like the paper trail."

But Stuckey went on to say that he is not totally rejecting eSlates but that he "just prefers to get the eScans right now."

He held out hope that the state will approve a voter-verified paper trail for the eSlates for future elections.

Commissioner Scott Martin voted against Lehman's amendment on the grounds that to reject the eSlates would be to sacrifice accessibility in an election where record voter turnout is expected. He likewise expressed doubt that having additional eScan ballot readers in a polling place would significantly improve efficiency.

In fact, the Commissioners could have acted to purchase additional eScan machines with the grant monies but opted not to do so.

Stehman said she is "disappointed" but that the decision ultimately rested with the Commissioners.

The approved amended resolution authorizes only the purchase of 10 additional eScan machines and related equipment, for a total of $96,725.

This leaves $164,398.20 of the previously approved Interest-1 grants to pay for other election expenses and to expend at a later date.