Voting equipment not up to par

So far, Boone County has spent $400,000 on faulty machines.
Friday, September 29, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:59 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Boone County is witholding about $800,000 from elections equipment vendor Election Systems & Software Inc. until it replaces faulty voting equipment, County Clerk Wendy Noren said Thursday.

Noren, who supervises elections, told ES&S that it must provide the county with new equipment to help it meet federal standards. Noren and county commissioners held a special afternoon meeting Thursday to discuss the status of the election budget.

The county has, so far, paid the Omaha-based vendor $400,000 for its services, she said, and the total cost for the county and equipment is about $1.2 million.

“It’s the biggest expenditure I’ve made in 30 years of doing elections,” she said. “I’m trying to be very careful with this.”

Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said after the meeting that Noren and her staff are working hard to address any problems leading up to the November elections.

“I think we’re in a better position than a lot of places are,” she said.

A central scanner is among the items that haven’t been paid for, said Noren, who said she doesn’t feel that the piece of equipment is performing properly. The central scanner is responsible for counting votes.

While the equipment that will be used in November has been used in the past, officials were only able to begin assessing the functionality of the equipment following the primary elections last month, Noren said. The equipment was examined starting last week because officials are prohibited from doing so during the 30 days following an election.

All equipment must be tested to meet federal standards, Noren said, and the state legislation now requires county officials to provide a paper trail of votes.

Months have passed since the legislation was enacted, but those requirements mean vendors have had to redesign their machines to meet those standards in time for elections, Noren said.

Reaching agreements with the vendor and state officials has also created delays in ensuring everything is in order for the November elections.

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