Luzerne County has been paying $6,500 a year for ballot design software that was not used, the new election director said, a decision that might have cost the county as much as $45,500. Marisa Crispell-Barber informed the county election board of the expenditure at Wednesday’s board meeting. She believes the software was purchased annually since the county started using the electronic voting machines in the 2006 primary. The board gave her permission to seek county funding to obtain training to fully implement the software and prepare ballots in-house. The training would cost $15,000 but would pay for itself because the county would no longer have to pay the voting-machine vendor to prepare ballots, she said. The county paid the vendor, Election Systems & Software, $33,563 to prepare the ballot in the 2012 primary alone, she said. She wants to secure training to design the ballot for the May 21 primary. Another employee also would be trained, and in-house preparation would gradually build a ballot database that can be used by her successors, she said.
Former election director Leonard Piazza said Thursday he disagrees the software was an untapped resource, saying he used some of the components. Piazza said complete in-house ballot completion was considered “a risk.”
“The county never wanted to take responsibility in case there was a malfunction,” he said.
Crispell-Barber also obtained election board permission to explore voting machine maintenance options.
She said the machine vendor informed her only 20 of the up to 867 voting machines have maintenance coverage, which means the county must pay for repairs out of pocket. She’s completing an inventory to verify the number of machines, saying conflicting figures have been recorded. Crispell-Barber said the vendor indicated a maintenance agreement on 867 machines would cost around $39,000.
The maintenance coverage also includes a discount on the machine motherboard batteries, which have exceeded their service life and must be replaced, she said. The batteries cost $90 per machine but would be as low as $65 with a maintenance agreement, she said.
Full Article: Voting machine questions explored.