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November 5, 2009

New voting machines concern for county

Commissioners hope delegation will back delay of state mandate

CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Commissioners has asked the local elections board chief to be on hand Friday during its meeting with the District 1 legislative delegation.

The meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the County Office Complex on Kelly Road, is the commissioners’ annual meeting with the four westernmost elected state lawmakers. Commissioner Jim Stakem said any implementation of new voting machines, which the General Assembly already has approved, is “one of the things we’re concerned about.”

The current touch-screen machines “have worked well for us here,” Stakem said.

Stakem also is concerned about the budget increase proposed by the Maryland Board of Elections, which has suggested the local board of elections find an additional $65,217.

“It’s sort of ridiculous to switch to another machine right now,” said Stakem, adding the commissioners might request the support of Sen. George Edwards and Delegates Kevin Kelly, LeRoy Myers and Wendell Beitzel to at least delay the mandate to implement any new machines.

“Hopefully, the delegation will support us,” Stakem said.

Elections board member JoAnn Spiker said the commissioners’ interest in the issue is “much-needed.”

“That’s good that they’re asking,” Spiker said.

Kitty Davis, local elections board administrator, said elections officials across the state are “hanging and waiting” for input from the state board. Currently, that board is reviewing proposals for the planned new voting machines.

County elections workers, meanwhile, recently spent more than a week inside the warehouse behind the County Office Complex working on the current machines. Each machine was cleaned, maintained and tested.

If the law passed this past legislative session goes through, Davis said, “we will be shipping all of them to a warehouse in Annapolis.”

But, “if something should happen” and the mandate is postponed, “we’ll be using these machines” in the September 2010 primary and November general elections, Davis said.

The state Board of Public Works has the ultimate authority in whether the existing machines, or new ones, will be used, Davis said.

Stakem said he and fellow Commissioners Dale Lewis and Bob Hutcheson, along with senior county staff, are still compiling a list of issues to be addressed with the delegation.

Contact Kevin Spradlin at kspradlin@times-news.com.

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