Voting Machine Purchase On Hold

Commission Eyes Electronic Poll Books

— A plan to add to the number of voting machines in Benton County has been put on hold by questions about software compatibility with the manufacturer’s newest model.

E.J. Miller, chairman of the Election Commission, said the commission planned to spend most of its 2010 budget for small equipment on new voting machines, but changes by the manufacturer prompted a delay.

Miller said the county put $362,000 in the commission’s 2010 budget. After buying a small number of additional voting machines, the commission still has $267,000 in that account.

“I hope to buy electronic poll books this year if I can redirect (the money) that way,” Miller said during a discussion of the 2011 budget at Friday’s commission meeting.

Miller said demonstrations of the electronic poll books persuaded him the county can save time and money by shifting from the handwritten poll books now used for election record-keeping. Record keeping functions that now take three or four people several days to complete could be done automatically when a person votes, he said.

Commission member Bob Balfe said he’s interested in learning more about the potential savings and asked the Benton County Clerk’s Office be contacted and asked for information about the use of the electronic poll books. Balfe also suggested the commission should follow a more formal process, possibly seeking bids or doing requests for proposals, for such a large expenditure.

Also at Friday’s meeting, it was decided the polling place in Gentry will remain at the Methodist Church. Mayor Wes Hogue said he had been incorrectly told the church wanted to have the polling place moved and had offered the commission the use of the city’s community room.

Miller said he had rescinded an order he’d sent to the County Clerk’s office on Wednesday approving the change.

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