ELIZABETHTOWN — If you live in Essex County, count on voting on the same old lever-type machines for at least two more years.Essex County's purchase and use of electronic voting machines will probably be delayed to 2009 — a year longer than officials expected.Delays at the State Board of Elections in approving machines for purchase mean Essex County will not only have to use the lever-type voting machines this year, but next year, too, Republican Election Commissioner Lewis Sanders said this week."We're going back and using the old lever machines this year. We have to go to Plan B for people with disabilities," Sanders said.The new digital voting machines will be handicapped-accessible, and part of the cost will be paid by provisions of the federal Help America Vote Act.Sanders said he and former Democratic Election Commissioner Edward Hatch believed new machines would be in place, so they didn't budget for supplies needed for the lever machines."The supplies have doubled in price. Ed and I did not anticipate those expenses in the '07 budget," Sanders said. "This is the short side of it because of what's happening at the state level."The county has an electronic voting machine it sets up at the County Board of Elections in Elizabethtown on which disabled individuals from any town can vote.But because the machine must have 18 ballots to chose from, it's more expensive to operate.The county spent $9,800 last year on programming services from Automark for the electronic machine and has estimated it will cost $14,000 this year.Democratic Election Commissioner David Mace said it would still be more expensive to do their own e-ballot setup by licensing the software."It's almost certain we'll use these lever machines in the presidential primary now being moved up to February (2008)."The lever-machine supplies and other costs will leave the Board of Elections with a $40,000 budget shortfall."I don't anticipate using electronic machines until '09," Sanders said.Voting-machine custodians in the towns have not been recertified in 10 years, he said, and there were some custodian errors in the last election."There were some irregularities that caused a dip in the water," Sanders said. "We have quite a few custodians that do not want to set up machines anymore. That leaves us short-handed."To handle the problem, Sanders and Mace said they'll appoint seven new machine custodians and would like to send them to a two-day course in Saratoga Springs. It would cost $8,000 to send people to the school run by Voting Machine Services.But it's not a mandatory course, so some members of the County Board of Supervisors don't want to pay for it."I think it's a waste of time," Supervisor Gerald Morrow (D-Chesterfield) said. "I don't see sending any of them."The county would have to take money from its contingency fund for the unbudgeted expense."I'd recommend we send a couple (custodians) down, train them and have them come back and train the others," Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) said.The county will also need to hire new election coordinators, since the law no longer allows town clerks to serve as election coordinators in their own towns, Mace said.The coordinators will be at the polls all day now and have additional duties beyond what the town clerks used to do.Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said the county's lever machines were working fine."This is another unfunded mandate. Unfortunately, it (HAVA) is a federal law. We had a system that was working," Connell said."In the beginning, the feds said they were going to pick up all the costs. Now we know they're not."
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