Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he will refuse to sign a maintenance contract for the county’s electronic voting machines. Earlier this month, Carper and county commissioners Hoppy Shores and Dave Hardy reluctantly agreed to pay a contract to Election Systems & Software to provide maintenance for the county’s electronic voting machines. The maintenance contract would have cost the county $56,000 a year for four years.
In 2005, under former secretary of state Betty Ireland, state officials negotiated a sole-source contract with ES&S to provide touch-screen and optical-scan voting machines all over the state. State officials told county election officials earlier this year they would be passing on responsibility for maintaining the voting machines to county government.
The state contract gave ES&S a virtual monopoly on voting machines in West Virginia and a monopoly on fixing the machines if they break. In the past, Kanawha County officials have had trouble getting in touch with ES&S representatives and finding qualified technicians to work on the machines.
Commissioners voted Sept. 15 to accept the ES&S maintenance contract, but grilled a company representative over whether they could rely on the company to send trained technicians for upcoming elections.
But then they got a good look at the contract.
Carper said the maintenance contract will be back on the county commission agenda on Thursday, this time for rejection.
“It apparently has an opt-out clause that doesn’t let you opt out,” Carper said. Unless the clause is removed, he said, commissioners will probably vote against the maintenance agreement.
Officials in several counties have already decided not to sign maintenance contracts with ES&S.
ES&S has had trouble with electronic voting machines during recent elections. In 2008, ES&S touch screen voting machines in sevearl West Virginia counties reportedly switched votes on ballots, leading to numerous complaints. The problems were eventually ironed out, and did not affect election results.