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State voting machine mandate all the 'rage'

LAKE PLEASANT - With low population density and only 11 voting districts, Hamilton County needs only 11 voting machines.

"We put up about $80,000 last year before the presidential election," Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Bill Farber said. "The constant software updates are the huge expense - it's about $5,000 per machine."

The impending New York State mandate that will require counties to replace lever voting machines with electronic ballot counters by 2010 has many counties rebelling - refusing to expend the funds.

On May 6, the Warren County Finance Committee rejected the state mandate - instead opting to dare the state to enforce any penalties.

"It would cost over $2 million to just store them," Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said. "We need to join with other counties and reject this mandate."

The mandate requires Warren County to replace 70 lever machines with electronic machines by 2010 at a cost of $7000 per unit.

Last month, Essex County Supervisors rejected the purchase of electronic ballot counting machines, prompting a wave of other financially-strapped upstate counties to follow suit.

Essex County is not the first to oppose the mandate, Dutchess County began the revolt two months ago. Since, the New York State Association of Counties has been lobbying against the voting machine upgrades.

"There just isn't the paper trail with the electronic machines," Farber said. "There is a greater risk for voting fraud with them."

According to Minerva Supervisor Mike McSweeney, he observed a voter struggle with the electronic machine for nearly an hour.

"They are anything but user friendly," McSweeney said this week.

Although already compliant, Hamilton County officials are also expressing frustration over the constant software updating and expensive storage costs of the highly sensitive electronic machines, Farber said.

"We have several supervisors who are pretty upset about this," he said. "The annualized cost of the paper ballots used for the electronic machines is extremely high."

Farber said that Hamilton County supervisors are currently discussing a resolution of support for the counties rejecting the mandate

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