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Glynn County, Ga., Finds that Buying New Voting Machines Is Not So Simple

The county was prompted to buy older machines because the newer models are no longer being sold by the manufacturer, Electronic Systems and Software.

by Taylor Cooper, The Brunswick News, Ga. / July 14, 2017
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(TNS) -- Voting being the essential democratic function that it is, the Glynn County Board of Elections is charged with keeping the county’s voting machines running and in good condition. That task has become more difficult this year.

The board voted Tuesday to buy five used voting machines from San Diego County, Calif., to use as backups. The machines board members chose to buy have only been used once and can be had at a savings. However, they did not have the option to buy new machines. No county in Georgia does.

Glynn County Board of Elections Supervisor Tina Edwards said the board was prompted to buy the machines because the newer models are no longer being sold by the manufacturer, Electronic Systems and Software. San Diego County is the only source of the machines that she is aware of at the moment.

The company has no plans to stock more in the near future, leaving Georgia counties with no choice but to buy machines secondhand or from third parties, Edwards said.

“They don’t manufacture the (TS-R6s) anymore and they don’t have an inventory of the TSx, which will complicate any new purchase,” said Edwards, who only discovered last month that the manufacturer no longer produces the voting machines. “They pretty much dominate the market. They’re the sole source for the machines.”

Edwards said she hasn’t seen a situation like this since she started working for the board in 2005.

“When you’re using something as important as voting equipment, and it’s required that we use touch-screen voting machines, and the fact that the vendor isn’t inventorying that equipment, that is concerning,” Edwards said. “Hopefully, the existing (Georgia) secretary of state or a new one will address it. It is unusual. We’ve never had an issue where I cannot approach ES&S for new equipment.”

Edwards does not anticipate the lack of supply will affect Glynn County. But it is worrying nevertheless, in no small part because Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has not given any official word on how he intends to deal with the situation. He unofficially told election officials at a training event that the office does not intend to do anything about it within the next five years.

“It is a statewide question, a concern about the voting equipment, the lifetime of the equipment, how long, and we’re not getting an answer from the secretary of state and we’re all uncertain,” Edwards said.

The lack of a solution from Kemp leaves it uncertain as to whether the state will even still be using the same machines for the next five years, Edwards said.

“We have to be fiscally responsible,” Edwards said. “We don’t want to do a full replacement and then have to replace the machines within a few years. Our equipment is in good shape, it’s working, this was just an opportunity to get more.”

Kemp may not be secretary of state after next year. He will make a run for governor in 2018.

Should the county need to buy more machines from a secondhand source, Edwards has confirmed that ES&S will provide a warranty.

The company manufactures the current preferred model of voting machine, one of two models the state currently uses.

The state elections board stipulates counties use either AccuVote TSx, the newer model the local board recently purchased from San Diego, or the older TS-R6, which was discontinued years ago.

The county’s stock of TS-R6s, of which it has far more, were provided by the secretary of state with money from the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

©2017 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.