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State's voting machine mandate sparks anger among region's officials

QUEENSBURY - 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, with angry local government officials refusing to expend the money for the costly, frail machines.

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 the voting machines," Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said this week. "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 $7,000 per unit.

Ongoing expenses of using the machines is also burdensome, county leaders said.

The electronic machines require dozens of different sets of custom-printed ballots, which are also expected to be expensive. Warren County election commissioners have estimated that ballots alone could cost taxpayers $70,000 or more per election.

County leaders have argued that the county's existing mechanical voting machines have proven reliable and tamper-proof, and inexpensive to own, store and operate.

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.

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 $5000 per machine."

Essex County is not the first to appose 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.

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