Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fayette Moves to Ratify Paper Ballot Scanner Purchase

According to the Tribune Review's Fayette officials make deadline to buy scanners
the Herald Standard's "New voting machines set to be purchased for Fayette County," two Fayette commissioners took action on a financing agreement to bring the county a paper-ballot and scanner voting system to supplement the eSlate machines that will be used in PA's Primary April 22. One commissioner has questioned the action taken before an official board meeting, Thursday.

While it's considerate to be watching every move the board of commissioners makes, from inside to ensure proper procedures are followed, it's going a bit beyond the call of duty to question the legitimacy of ratification of a financial contract in-between or prior to official board meetings when that ratification is part of official administrative action a majority of board members can take.

Last month's board meeting included discussion and announcement such administrative action would be needed to be taken to adopt the voting system and make the order. The board discussed the matter at length, and finally a motion made was "to purchase eScan machines."

Particulars were discussed, including an option for financing with the vendor the previous board chose years back.

Actually, it looks like there may be a dramatic savings in costs since the interest rate appears to be lower from guesstimates offered during the last meeting.

Fayette officials buy paper-ballot machines
By Mary Pickels
Thursday, February 7, 2008

Everybody understands the board doesn't have to bring the documents to the meeting and sign names in front of the public.

On the other hand, one commissioner, questioning the financial arrangement and the need for further details, was out of the area at the time the administrative decision needed to be made.

The board had discussed several options of how to pay for the new acquisition previously. Interest rates were also part of the details.

At the least, all commissioners should provide a means to contact them in the event signatures are needed on vouchers and similar documents such as this purchase of eScans.

Imagine an emergency situation in the event of inclement winter weather where something unforseen happens to one of two board members in the courthouse, and a commissioner out of town is needed to take some emergency action.

In this day and age where people can sign online using digital signatures, it isn't a stretch to think such might become a necessity somewhere down the road.

Had a two-person majority not been available to act on the purchase of the eScan units in the time-framed needed, the county would be in a position where it wouldn't have timely delivery of the 103 eScans for the crucial Presidential Primary set for April 22.

A quick look backwards: The previous boards should have taken action long ago and given the people of the county a choice of a paper ballot with the optical scan.

Had that action been taken in 2005 or early 2006, the savings to the county would have amounted to the entire cost of this new purchase.

At that time, the cost of eScan units was near or equal to the cost of the DRE eSlates. The county would have needed slightly more than 103 accessible eSlates, and 103 (with a few extras) eScans. At $3,000 a unit that works out to approximately a bit over $600,000.

Years ago, the voters would have had the choice of paper ballots/scanners and accessible DREs at the polling place, and very likely the county would have avoided the mess of the past four elections.

Those instances of long lines and two hour plus waits, by the way, made the list of 'complaints' voter activists have been keeping since implementation of the Help America Vote Act in 2002 and requirements for counties to change voting systems to systems affording privacy and accessibility, and other requirements.

While there is no guarantee there won't be long lines of voters due hopefully to a renewed interest in voting and increased voter turnout, the hours of waits should all but vanish since voters have a choice of a paper ballot with optical scan.

(Net the Truth Online)

Fayette officials make deadline to buy scanners
By Liz Zemba
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fayette County Commissioners on Thursday will consider ratifying the purchase of 113 e-Scan voting machines at a cost of $580,120.

Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky announced during an agenda meeting Tuesday that he and Commissioner Vincent Vicites had given their approval to terms of a financing deal for purchase of the machines.

Zapotosky and Vicites said they were provided terms of the deal through Koch Financial late last Thursday. They had until noon yesterday to fax paperwork to the company to approve the deal, a deadline they said they met despite not having input from Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink.

Zimmerlink was out of the courthouse last week. Zapotosky said she was unavailable until after the deadline had passed.

Zimmerlink yesterday said commissioners should nonetheless have presented terms of the deal publicly before giving their approval. She wanted various details, including the interest rate, discussed publicly before approvals were given.
Zapotosky said the loan carries an interest rate of 3.92 percent and calls for a down payment of $170,000. Three annual payments, commencing in 2009, of $148,431 will follow.

Vicites and Zapotosky said they had to meet the Monday deadline to ensure delivery of the machines in time for the spring primary. Plans call for placement of at least one of the new machines at each of the county's 103 voting precincts.

New voting machines set to be purchased for Fayette County
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard
Updated 02/27/2008 12:15:46 AM EST

The Fayette County commissioners are slated to ratify a financing agreement for voting machines that are essentially a paper ballot with a scanner to use as an option to the county's electronic machines in the April 22 primary.

During Tuesday's agenda meeting, the commissioners voted to place a motion on Thursday's agenda to ratify an agreement with Koch Financial of Scottsdale, Ariz., to purchase 113 eScan voting machines. Voting in favor of the motion were commissioners Vincent A. Vicites and Vincent Zapotosky, with Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink voting against it...

Zapotosky, who led the initiative to purchase the machines from Hart Intercivic of Texas, said the total cost is $580,120. He said the agreement includes a down payment of $170,000, and a financed amount of $410,120, with annual payments of $148,431 on March 2009, March 2010 and March 2011.

County manager Warren Hughes said the money for the three yearly payments would have to be budgeted.

The $170,000 down payment is money the prior board of commissioners budgeted to purchase additional eSlate electronic voting machines. However, because of reluctance by senior citizens to use the machines and long lines at the polls, Vicites and Zapotosky opted to purchase the eScan machines.

Zimmerlink expressed concerns about two commissioners signing the agreement and then ratifying it after the fact, saying when the motion was approved to purchase the machines, Controller Sean Lally mentioned there were alternatives for financing.

Zimmerlink abstained from the vote to purchase the machines, saying at the time there were too many unanswered questions, including how the county would pay for the machines.

Zapotosky said the contract is being ratified because it had to be returned by noon Monday or there would be a delay in getting the machines. He said the commissioners only received the contract after the deadline to place the item on the agenda and time was vital.

When Zimmerlink asked about the interest rate, Zapotosky said it is about 3.92 percent, and there is not a penalty for early payment.

"In order to have the machines by April 22, we have to move forward," Vicites said.

Zimmerlink said she understands that everything must be done in a timely manner, but said all options should be discussed at a public meeting.

Vicites said the options were discussed previously.

"The bottom line is people will have a choice on April 22," Vicites said.

When Zapotosky suggested to "move on," Zimmerlink said she had something to say.

"You can say what you want, we had to move forward," Vicites said.

Zimmerlink said such items should be placed on the agenda for approval instead of ratifying them after the fact, to which Vicites said they had been working on it for a month.

"We will further discuss it on Thursday," Zapotosky said.

Zimmerlink replied that it would be after the fact.

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