Purchase of new voting machines already planned

Draft of 2006 county budget forecasts need for 2008 elections

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— Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland forecasted several months ago that the county would need more electronic voting machines in 2008.

In a report presented at a Routt County budget review hearing Aug. 17, Weinland noted that in two years, the county will need, "16 additional DREs at a cost of $3,500 each. This is necessary for the volume of voting that is anticipated in the '08 presidential election." A DRE, or direct record electronic, is the electronic voting machine manufactured by Texas-based company Hart InterCivic and used in Routt County.

Weinland said Thursday that she likely will increase that request.

"I was already planning to buy more (voting machines) before the presidential election in 2008," Weinland said. "I think it may need to be more than 16. We also need to figure out some strategies other than just buying more equipment."

In the 2004 presidential election, about 11,500 people voted in Routt County.

A total of 7,845 Routt County voters participated in this year's midterm election. Of those, about 3,800 voted with early or absentee ballots, meaning about 4,000 voters used one of the county's 35 voting machines Tuesday at one of eight vote centers in the county.

Mechanical problems, a large voter turnout and a lengthy ballot combined to create long lines that kept voters waiting for up to four hours, particularly at crowded voting centers in Steamboat Springs.

Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad said Thursday that the cost of increasing voting centers in Routt County involves much more than the cost of electronic voting machines.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said Wednesday that the county has spent $145,250 of its money and $140,750 if grant funds from the Colorado Secretary of State on voting systems and elections that meet requirements of the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

Reviewing the itemized list of county election funding, Strnad pointed out additional costs including $38,500 for laptops and printers used by election staff to process voter records and registration, $13,280 to pay election judges, $15,000 for computer software, $16,000 for additional election staff, and numerous other expenses such as staff training and supplies.

"The workload has really increased for election documentation and follow-up," Weinland said, noting that elections supervisor Vicki Weber had more than 47 hours of overtime in the two weeks before the election.

"The cost of elections keeps escalating," Weinland said. "We're going to work on never having a repeat of Tuesday. Waiting four hours, or two hours, is not acceptable."

Weinland said a post-election audit that had been planned for Thursday is postponed until Nov. 16.

- To reach Mike Lawrence call 871-4203,

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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