Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
By William Kincaid
Staff can't find Mercer County voting machines
  Some of Mercer County's electronic voting machines are not accounted for, Director Mike Lamm of the county's board of elections office said on Tuesday morning.
A preliminary assessment conducted by Lamm shows that at least four voting machines, valued at $2,700 each, could be missing.
"We've got a mess, guys, as far as inventory," Lamm told board members during their regular meeting, saying that obviously someone has been remiss in keeping track of the machines.
Election officials are considering using more of the county's electronic voting machines - currently provided for voters with disabilities - at the primary election in May.
In November, board member Toni Slusser ordered the elections staff to test its electronic voting machines and printers and provide a report at the January board meeting.
On Tuesday, Lamm provided an inventory list and said he would begin testing the machines soon.
The county owns 167 electronic voting machines, according to the Mercer County commissioners' inventory list, Lamm said. But Lamm said he could only account for 163.
Previously, the county commissioners rented 96 machines to Hancock County until December 2010 in exchange for $38,400.
Lamm told board members that he found 68 of the machines in the county's server room. He also said Hancock County claims to have 95 of Mercer County's machines.
Lamm said he was unable to locate a rental contract signed by all parties involved or the exact number of machines leased to Hancock County.
Also, Lamm said the county owns two optical scanners machines, but he found a total of nine, some of which had no tag numbers.
Both Lamm and Slusser said the additional machines probably belong to ES&S Election Programing, formerly known as Premier.
Lamm also spoke of other election equipment found that was not registered on the commissioners' list.
Locating and determining the operational status of the machines is imperative as board members are considering using more electronic voting machines, which allow for a much quicker tabulation of votes and are preferred by most voters, according to Lamm.
The county owns the electronic voting machines, but switched to optical scanners after Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in April 2008 recommended ditching electronic touchscreen machines. She was concerned about security issues.
At the November meeting, Lamm said the rental of the optical scan machines and ballet boxes for the current paper system cost $14,753 for the general election.
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