County begins paying for new voting system

ELIZABETHTOWN - Staring down a federal mandate, the Essex County Ways and Means Committee unanimously endorsed spending $35,000 of county cash Monday to fund personnel costs for the new computerized optical voting machines.

Over the last two years, counties throughout the state - especially upstate - have steadfastly opposed federal mandates requiring the use of the computerized vote tallying machines.

Westport Supervisor Dan Connell predicts the county will have to spend a lot more to keep the new voting system up and running.

"We had a system that was working just fine," Connell said. "I bet we spend $100,000 a year on this new system and it's going to fall right on the local taxpayer."

According to Democratic Essex County Board of Elections Commissioner David Mace, the county will have to hire and train at least two technicians to keep the new equipment up and running during this fall's primary and general elections.

Hired for eight weeks, the technicians will earn $17 an hour.

"We're kind of flying blind on this," Mace said. "We are planning on holding a mock election before the primary to make sure everything is working properly."

Mace said the tallying machines themselves have already been purchased with grant funds, but the county will have to spend $10,000 annually in software licensing fees.

Last year, dozens of upstate counties refused to comply with state and federal mandates requiring the purchase and use of the optical scanning voting machines.

They argued the mechanical lever voting machines are accurate and cost effective.

But federal officials counter that the optical scanners will allow for faster and more accurate vote tally reporting.

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