October 20, 2021

Cortland County needs new voting machines

Cortland County needs 36 new voting machines and Board of Election officials hope to get them by the November general elections.

Whether they will remains up in the air.

“We had originally thought sometime this year, but it will depend upon budgets and so on,” Tom Brown, the Democratic election commissioner, said Tuesday.

Republican Election Commissioner Robert Howe said the Board of Elections office has to go through a contract for Dominion Voting Systems, the same company from which the county bought its existing machines.

The commissioners said the move to get new machines comes as the current ones are 11 years old and face repairs to keep them working properly.

Howe said the Board of Elections office will seek to lease 36 machines over 10 years for around $63,000 over the decade.

However, county officials could not be reached on whether there is the money in the budget for the lease.

“We presented it as a lease, so we wouldn’t be responsible for any repairs, they (Dominion) are,” Howe said.

Both commissioners said they wouldn’t want to lease only a few new machines.

“I wouldn’t want to go 50/50 because the new machine is going to have a different manual than the other,” Howe said, and he wants to stick with one uniform system.

They also both agreed this would be a good year to sign a lease for new machines because it’s not a presidential election year, so any kinks could be worked out before a presidential election year when more people are likely to vote.

The commissioners said Dominion voting machines are secure and not accessible by internet.

“They’re not even connected to it,” Howe said.

Dominion Voting Systems came under the spotlight in last fall’s presidential election after allegations were made that the company, which has provided vote counting machines, was switching votes for Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

The Associated Press reports that Eric Coomer, security director at the Colorado-based company, has since filed a defamation lawsuit against the Trump campaign and several others over the allegations.

Brown said Dominion is an approved contractor through the state Board of Elections office.

On top of all that, Brown said, what makes New York’s voting system different from other states is that there’s a paper trail.

“By law, we have to select a district at random and then audit by hand the vote totals to be sure what the machine says matches with what we come up with by conducting a hand count,” Brown said.