Commissioners discuss upgrades to county voting system

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The Switzerland County Commissioners met for the first meeting of the month Tuesday afternoon, and Commissioners Craig Bond and K.C. Banta discussed access to county voting places with county clerk Ginger Peters.

Ginger Peters told the commissioners that in order to meet state and federal regulations that require specialized voting machinery for persons with disabilities; the county needs to look into special voting machines that will allow access.

Ginger Peters said that counties are being asked to comply by the 2006 elections, and that special machines that will assist voters who are sight-impaired and with other disabilities are needed. She said that requirements state that there needs to be at least one specialized voting machine at each polling place, and that she would also like to purchase an additional machine as a backup.

Switzerland County has 12 voting precincts, but because some of those precincts vote at the same location, there are only seven polling places. She told the commissioners that each of the machines would cost around $3,000; but that there is some reimbursement funding from the state that will decrease the total cost to the county — but not specific reimbursement amount is known.

“We’re going to have to do it,” Commissioner K.C. Banta said. “I guess we’ll just have to figure out how to pay for it.”

The commissioners gave Ginger Peters the approval to go to the county council meeting this Saturday to ask for the funding.

The county clerk also discussed with the commissioners the possibility of raising the salaries of the election workers. She said that new responsibilities, such as the new handicap-accessible machines, could create more work for poll workers on election day.

“One of the big issues next year is that every voter is going to have to show an ID before they are allowed to enter the polling place,” Ginger Peters said. “Everyone is going to be checked.”

Both commissioners — Commissioner Brian Morton was not at the meeting — agreed that election day workers do perform a great service to the community; but neither was willing to approve the new salary structure without first giving it careful consideration.

“I just think it’s too much money,” Craig Bond said of the new pay proposal. “I’m sorry, I just think it’s a lot of money.”

“It’s just a proposal,” Ginger Peters said. “The commissioners can do anything you want to do.”

“I really think that most people who enjoy working the election don’t do it for the money,” K.C. Banta said. “When I worked an election for the first time, I didn’t even know that you got paid. I just thought it was an honor to be asked.”

The commissioners tabled the salary proposal until the next meeting on July 18th.