Franklin County Clerk Debbie Door has defended the recent purchase of election machines that cost more than $400,000.
“I’m going to get disgusted with this,” Door said. “We have to have new election equipment. End of story.”
Door made the statements last week during a meeting with county commissioners about her 2014 budget.
The new election machines have “different security features” and are “designed for some of the things that the legislators have been looking at over the last few years and we know it’s going to come.”
The county’s current equipment “cannot handle” the law changes that the legislators are looking at implementing, she added.
Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz asked if Door knows when the new laws may take effect.
Door responded, “There’s three different things right now that if it becomes mandated we could have it next year.”
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he was recently approached by a taxpayer who asked why the county needed to buy new election machines. The taxpayer wanted to know what’s wrong with the current machines.
Brinker said the argument taxpayers are going to pose is, “What the hell are we buying all this equipment for? It works fine.”
He said he just wanted to get an explanation from Door in terms of why the new equipment is needed so he can explain it to taxpayers when they ask.
Brinker said he had to tell the taxpayer he spoke with that he did not know what was wrong with the current machines.
Door noted that the commissioners have already approved buying the new machines and they should last “at least” 10 years.
“It’s a done deal,” she said.
If the county did not get new equipment and there were problems then there would be a public backlash over why the county did not replace the equipment, Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said.
Door said some of the machines are not working properly anymore, including printer components.
“We’ve had this equipment since 2004,” Door said. “It’s been bounced around in the back of vans. It’s been dropped. It’s (gotten) wet.”
The current equipment is “rough,” and there are”a lot of reasons why we need new election equipment,” Door added.
Moreover, she said this year was the last year that the county was going to get any money for its old equipment, which brought in $65,168.
“If we would have done this three years ago when we first started talking about it, the price would have been lower three years ago than what it is today,” Door said.
The commissioners approved the purchase of the 57 touch-screen voting machines and 57 optical scanners in October from Henry M. Adkins & Son, Inc. of Clinton. It was the only company that submitted a bid to the county.
The county will pay off the new machines over three years at a cost of $138,000 a year with no interest. The first payment will be made this year, and the machines will be paid off by 2015.
The new machines should be in use for the first time in the upcoming April election.
Door said the election machines will ultimately be covered by money she has in her Help America Vote Act Fund, elections services fund and contractual services account. Grant funds and money from the state Legislature may also help cover some of the costs. Door said she may have to borrow money from the general fund for a couple of years to make the payments and then repay that money once she gets more money in her elections services and HAVA accounts after the 2016 presidential election.
The HAVA fund gets its money through election equipment rental charges that the county charges to entities that have issues on the ballot during elections. And the elections services fund gets its money from a separate fee the county charges to entities during elections.
“I want to pay back everything that we take out of general fund,” she said. “I want to reimburse the county for that.”