County changes mind on voting machine vendor

By JOHN RISHEL

jrishel@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — It looks like the county has changed its mind about who they will purchase new voting machines from.

At Monday’s work session, Clinton County Director of Voter Registration and Elections Maria Boileau said the county will be rescinding their pursuit of a contract with Dominion Voting Systems Corporation.

While the decision was made a month ago to enter into a contract with Dominion, county commissioner Robert “Pete” Smeltz said the contract was never signed and now the county looks to move in another direction.

Smeltz said they are not taking official action yet, but Boileau said the county will move toward a contract with Election Systems and Software at the cost of approximately $350,000.

“We had a conversation with other counties and the Department of State about Dominion and their scanners proving to be inadequate. The contract included 37 of these scanners. Their scanners are as much as 25 seconds slower than the scanners of other companies. We came to realize that we would have needed more scanners than we were quoted, as many as 50,” Boileau said. “It was a $59,000 increase over what we were quoted the first round, and there was a close bid from ES&S. We double checked and we felt their equipment is more efficient, lighter, and of better quality.”

The Clinton County Election Board, which consists of Commissioner Pete Smeltz, court administrator Don Powers and President Judge Craig P. Miller, have now made the decision to change course over the limitations of the equipment.

“The debate happened within the election board, and in a busy election with a heavy ballot and a big population, we felt like lines would form. We felt we would need more pieces of equipment and anticipated it causing issues,” Smeltz said. “We are convinced that this is the right way to go.”

“They are very big machines, so now less storage space will be required and there will be fewer costs associated in future years such as additional battery purchases and toner cartridges,” Boileau added.

Commissioner Jeff Snyder pointed out that the amount is “still well under the amount that the county has budgeted” to meet the mandate imposed by Governor Tom Wolf.

According to their website, Election Systems & Software is an American owned and operated company with a “simple and unwavering” vision to provide products and services of exceptional quality and value to maintain voter confidence and enhance the voting experience.

“Once we get the contract done and through solicitor review, then it would go to the commissioners to approve the financials of the purchase,” Smeltz explained.

The county has been through this process once with Dominion, but the contract was never signed.

“So we didn’t have to rescind a contract, just the decision to pursue that contract. We want to make sure we get this right. We will take the time that we need to take,” Smeltz said.

“ES&S has assured us that they will be ready and they are comfortable with the equipment that we need and their ability to deliver in a timely manner,” Boileau said.

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