County gets OK to dispose of old voting machines as they see fit

County gets OK to dispose of old voting machines as they see fit

New machines will be in place for November elections

Crittenden County has been cleared by the manufacturer of the county’s voting equipment to dispose of the older machines as they choose.

County Judge Woody Wheeless received an email from Election Systems & Software (ES& S) telling the county that they do not want the equipment back.

The e-mail was in response to concerns by the Quorum Court over who owned the voting machines and whether they could legally give county property away. The court asked Wheeless to get clarification from the company that the machines belonged to the county.

“They sent me an e-mail saying the machines are ours and that we can either destroy them of give them to somebody,” Wheeless said.

The Quorum Court tabled a resolution at its June meeting to send to the Secretary of State’s Office in order to receive new voting machines because the language in the resolution made it seem like the old equipment needed to be returned to the state.

“I think the issue the Court wants cleared up is that somewhere down the road it doesn’t come back to bite us that we gave them away to another county to use and that we didn’t do it properly,” Wheeless said.

The Court was told by the county Election Commission that ES& S doesn’t want the equipment back and that they encouraged the county to give it away to other counties who may need voting machines.

The county has about 100 old voting machines. In the last election, Lee County gave the county 15 of its old voting machines to use.

“The state did a trade in agreement with them (ES& S),” Wheeless said.

“But even though they gave them (the state) credit for them, that they (ES& S) didn’t want them back.”

The state made $4 million available this year to counties needing new voting machines and offered to pay 50 percent of the cost.

The Quorum Court applied for the money and state paid half of the $573,246 — or $287,816 — for 75 new voting machines which the county recently received.

Wheeless said he added language to the ordinance to reflect that ES& S gave them something in writing stating the machines belonged to the county and that they can dispose of them any way they see fit, and also inserted language stating that state election coordinator Leslie Bellamy clarified that custody of the old equipment was given to all Arkansas counties in 2008.

“Those should cover us and not give us any liability about giving them away if that’s what we choose to do,” Wheeless said. “So if somebody wants to test this, we can say ES& S sent us an e-mail telling us they don’t want them and that we can dispose of them however we want to.”

By Mark Randall