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State shoulders Berkeley County with election machine maintenance

September 23, 2011

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County officials are unhappy that the Secretary of State's office shifted the responsibility of paying for the maintenance and upkeep of election voting machines to the state's 55 counties "at the last hour."

The county wasn't notified of the change until late last month, Deputy County Administrator Alan Davis told Berkeley County Council members.

Faced with soon-to-expire maintenance agreements in place for 74 of the county's 230 voting machines, the council voted Thursday to authorize a four-year agreement with Election Systems & Software.

Because the company is the only firm certified to maintain, repair or upgrade the software, the county had little choice but to approve a contract with the company, Davis said.

The initial year of the maintenance contract will cost the county $15,589, followed by an increase to $18,259 and then $18,322.

Davis said the maintenance agreements of most concern to the county were set to expire at the end of this month.

The agreement for all but one of the remaining 156 iVotronic voting machines expire at the end of the year, Davis said.

Berkeley County Clerk John W. Small Jr., the county's chief election officer, told council members they would like to purchase more machines, but there are none available.

A different type of machine used by the city of Martinsburg for its municipal elections was proposed to be rented to the city for about $2,500, the cost of maintaining it.

Councilman James "Jim" Whitacre suggested the county should explore whether the machine, which was purchased with federal money, instead could be transferred to the city and eliminate the need for a rental agreement.

Councilwoman Elaine Mauck suggested additional savings could be realized if the city opted to have its election at the same time as the state's May primary.

— Matthew Umstead

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