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Centre still unsure of cost of new voting system
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
BELLEFONTE - The debate continued yesterday in Centre County regarding the purchase of new voting machines for the county when the commissioners were questioned during the press conference following their meeting.

When the issue came up, the commissioners turned the floor over to Timothy T. Boyde,

director of administrative services.

He said some of the numbers are in, and right now the county is looking at about $1.1 million. Last week it was said to be about $924,500 for the voting equipment, and  prior to  that the price was  stated  at  about  $1.8  million.

Mr. Boyde said the cost is to include 100 used machines that read the ballots voters complete along with 100 new Automarks, which are machines for those with disabilities. The current contract price also includes 400 voting booths, 100 tables for the Automarks, installation, training, initial maintenance fees and shipping, but does not include annual expenses such as routine maintenance.

"Those figures could be sitting in the e-mail as we speak," Mr. Boyde said.

Commissioner Chairman Jon Eich said he wants to have a vote on purchasing the system as soon as possible; however, next week's meeting has been canceled.

Commissioner Steve Dershem fears there will be problems with the county changing machines or planning to change machines so soon before an election.

"I just hope it can be installed within 98 days," Mr. Dershem said.

With the new system, a voter marks his or her votes on paper, with a pen, and then the ballot is fed through a scanner.

Mr. Eich said that to the best of his knowledge, if the scanner would jam, the voters can continue to vote on paper and once the jam is cleared the ballots would be scanned.

Last week Mr. Dershem voted against the new system, and one of the reasons he did so was because he didn't have firm numbers.

It was learned yesterday that the machines being considered are used. Mr. Eich said that's because the demand has outgrown the supply.

Mr. Eich and Commissioner Rich Rogers have voiced their concern about the current system, saying it's not reliable or is inferior; however, they are looking to sell the machines to a neighboring county.

They were asked if they were "inferior," should they be selling them to another county.

"That's up to those other county commissioners," Mr. Eich said. "I don't think it's a problem selling them to another county."

Centre County requires one voting machine per 200 voters, and there are now 90,793 registered voters in the county.

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