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Voting machines to provide paper trail in 2010 election

Voting machines to provide paper trail in 2010 election
With a new face at the helm of the Weakley County election office, the commission had plenty to talk about during a meeting held Tuesday afternoon in Dresden.
Newly-appointed Weakley County Administrator of Elections Barbara Castleman is facing an upcoming fiscal year budget and asked election commissioners to prepare for next year’s races across the state.
Castleman told the commission that a state mandate has ordered the counties in Tennessee to prepare for the new voter scanning machines that are designed to leave a paper trail.
Currently, with the present voting machines, there is no way to provide an audit or store paper voting results on a local level.
“You’ll notice a big increase in that line item for printing – $48,375,” Castleman commented to board members.
She told the board the optical scanning machines would be in place for the November 2010 election, according to the state, but thought it would be wise for Weakley County to try and utilize the new machines for the May 2010 general election.
“There will be less voters at the time, but of course that would fall under this budget that we’re working on. I think it would be easier to start it in May 2010,” Castleman added.
She also noted that ballots would be printed for absentee voting during the upcoming fiscal year which increases the “printing” line item as well.
“The state will do what it’s going to do. But I don’t think we should anticipate any money in the ’09 budget for new machines.
“We’ll still be using our old machines in May and we can’t ask for that money if we don’t have the new system in place,” Weakley County Election Commission Chairman Wayne Chester said.
Chester did ask the board to consider extra expenses involved with the current voting system in the form of paying technicians to test the machines and hiring a consultant from the company to stay with the county for two days during the election for troubleshooting purposes.
Chester said that is something the county has done in the past. The cost is estimated at $3,500, but it’s money well spent, according to the chairman.
“Can we move money from one line item to pay for these things?” Chester asked.
Castleman told the board if the county did not purchase the optical scanner voting machines, money could later be moved from that line item.
“I have a terrible time taking a cut in line-item budgets. I hope we don’t spend unnecessarily, but at the same time, I hope we have enough money when we need it,” Chester added.
The election commission agreed to send the tentative 2009-10 fiscal year budget to the Health, Education, and Economic Development Committee for approval.
“I just wonder, Mr. Chairman, what the theory is behind the new voting system?” Commissioner Kitty Soder asked.
“It came about during the last presidential election that there was no way to leave a paper trail with the old system. With the new system, you can,” Chester remarked.
“For many new people on the board, I want to let you know that there are some meetings that we are required by law to have and others that are business meetings, such as this.
“We don’t need to have things pass us by. I encourage each of you to call me or Barbara if you feel the need to have a meeting to bring about ideas. Without meetings, we don’t have an opportunity to interact and meetings such as this are extremely important,” Chester explained to the board.
“During an off-year such as this, it is a good time to take a look at county precincts and see if there is validity to revamp or redraw the lines to make it easier for voters to get to the polls. Maybe even combining some precincts in Martin,” Chester said.
“I think we should consider that the General Assembly is getting ready to redistrict next year and we need to make sure we align correctly,” Commissioner Beau Pemberton commented.
Pemberton was recently appointed to serve on the election commission after Kerry Killebrew resigned his post last month. Pemberton was chosen to serve as one of the Democrats on the five-member election commission.
He is a practicing attorney in Dresden and lives in Martin.
“We have some people from Gleason that have to drive to Palmersville to vote,” Chester said. Soder remarked that some people do not like change and if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
In new business, election commissioners anticipate moving into a new building this year and Chester asked Castleman and others to consider purchasing new furniture.
“We will need, or do we need any new furniture. My point is there is a new building and we need to have furniture commensurate to the building. This is something we need to think about,” the chairman said.
The board will also consider who will move the furniture into the new building.
WCP 6.25.09

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