Election machines' cost considered

Friday, November 6, 2009

Marshall County could be forced to bear an expense estimated at nearly $60,000, depending on the kind of voting machines that are recommended for purchase, the county's elections administrator said Wednesday.

Administrator Jo Ann Henry's estimate was in response to a question from Elections Commissioner Lynda Sherrell who requested a cost estimate for the county to be in compliance with a state law scheduled to be in effect for the next county election.

A better estimate is to be sought during a winter seminar at Murfreesboro on Dec. 2 for election officials in Middle Tennessee, a conference Henry and other Marshall County election officials plan to attend.

Enacted last year, the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act requires the use of voting machines with optical scanners that are to make an electronic image of the ballot so a voter can be assured that their vote was counted. How to implement the act has not been resolved.

"It depends on what machine they recommend," Henry told Sherrell. "We just have to estimate ... $32,000 and that's not the half of the thing."

Training and related costs are in addition to the cost of the machines, she said.

"From what I'm hearing, it will be brought up again at the General Assembly," Henry said, adding that it's unclear whether there will be another delay in implementing the law enacted nearly a year ago.

Also considered during the Wednesday morning meeting were the budget and ramifications of spending restraints.

The election office budget approved by the county commission at $148,745, is some $4,500 less because of cuts sought by commissioners, according to discussion with Henry.

"Everybody is just blessed to have a job," she said.

Travel and office supplies were among the expenses that were cut.

Commission Chairman Quinton Looney expressed hope that office equipment remains in good repair.

Also Wednesday, Henry reported that 863 inactive voters' names were purged last month from the voter rolls as required by state law. People who don't vote in the two most recent federal elections are considered inactive and subject to removal. They may register again.

In another step taken for the political process, Henry reported that she has sent letters to the political party leaders in Marshall County to advise them of the process and deadline if they want to conduct a primary for local elections.

"It's not required by state law," she said. "It's just to let them know."

Primaries are not common for local government elections.