The town of Litchfield has rejected a second state offer of a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots in favor of continuing to count votes by hand. Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn, left, and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap give a demonstration of one of the the new, state-leased DS 200 tabulators on Thursday in the Cross Building in Augusta. Litchfield recently rejected a second offer by the state for a machine to tabulate state and federal election ballots, in favor of continuing hand-counting. Litchfield’s rejection was signed Tuesday by Rayna Leibowitz, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, following an earlier vote. “When the ballot clerks were asked their opinions, nobody, nobody wanted the machines,” said Leibowitz, who serves as a ballot clerk when she’s not a candidate for office. “We just feel it’s too important a process to rely on the machines, and we’d miss out on the social opportunities here. It’s very much a team effort. We have some people doing it for years and years and years, and they absolutely love the process.” In contrast, officials in Belgrade are enthusiastically cheering the benefits of that town’s new tabulator, which saved nine hours of counting time in the last election.
“It was wonderful,” said Cheryl Cook, Belgrade’s town clerk and registrar. “We were out of there by 9 or 9:30. Normally when we hand-counted, it was 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.”
About 1,900 people voted in the 2012 presidential election in Belgrade.
Last fall, 67 hand-counting municipalities with more than 1,500 voters were offered a new, state-leased DS 200 tabulator produced by Election Systems & Software. The offer is part of state’s effort to get more accurate returns and to ease the burden on clerks who may have to count ballots into the wee hours of the morning.
Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn said 61 municipalities accepted the offer, while six, including Litchfield, rejected it.
Those six got a second chance recently and had until Friday to respond. Whitefield, Hancock and Eddington opted to get the machines. Winterport and Greenville joined Litchfield in saying no, Flynn said.
Last fall, Doris Parlin, Litchfield town clerk and registrar of voters, listed the pros — among them saving the ballot clerks’ $7.50 hourly wage for counting — and the cons, including a short time frame prior to the November election, for which election clerks already were appointed.
Both Parlin and Town Manager Michael Byron supported getting the tabulator to count state and federal election returns. Parlin said the intent was to continue to hand-count ballots for local offices.