Batteries sought for primary

The board found the same batteries for considerably less money.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Without new batteries for its voting machines, Mahoning County would have a significant problem holding a May primary, according to its deputy elections director.
The batteries in the more than 1,000 voting machines in the county have a life span of about five years, said Joyce Kale Pesta, the deputy elections director. Most of those batteries are five years old and no longer useful, she told the elections board Tuesday.
The elections board had included money in its budget request to county commissioners for the batteries, but the request was denied. The county continues to struggle financially and could be forced to lay off workers.
The elections board had requested 2 million for its 2007 budget. The commissioners gave the board 1.3 million, the same amount it received in 2005.
Odd-year budgets are less expensive for the elections board because there is less voter turnout than in even years, particularly presidential elections, Kale Pesta said. Also, there are several areas, such as townships, that typically don't have May primary ballots, she said. The elections board's 2006 budget was 2.5 million.
Budget difference
Most of the 700,000 difference between the elections board's budget request and what the commissioners provided from the general fund in 2007 was for new rechargeable batteries -- unlike the batteries currently in the machines that aren't rechargeable -- and voting machine storage costs, she said.
The board had intended to buy the batteries and the battery chargers from Election Systems & amp; Software, the Omaha, Neb., company that sold the electronic voting system to the county five years ago. That cost was 197,500. But the elections board found the same batteries and chargers from Battery Space Inc. of Richmond, Calif., for 50,877.
Taking a suggestion from county Administrator George Tablack, the board will ask the commissioners to provide money for the batteries and chargers through the county's capital improvements fund, Kale Pesta said.
"We need the batteries in about a month because we're under pressure to get the machines ready for the May primary," she said.
Precinct reduction
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board agreed to reduce the number of precincts in Boardman for the Feb. 6 special election on a school bond issue. The precincts will be reduced from 53 to 20, but no one's polling location is changing, said Thomas McCabe, the elections board director.
By reducing the precincts during what is expected to be a vote with light turnout, McCabe said 11,250 in poll-worker salaries would be saved.
Reducing precincts, but not polling locations, in the May primary is a serious option in townships that would have only tax issues on that month's ballot, McCabe said. By doing so, the county could save money, he said.
At the meeting was Tamica White of Youngstown, hired by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, to serve as a part-time regional liaison for Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Ashtabula and Carroll counties. She is sharing the job with Ron Massullo of Poland. They will earn about 22,000 annually in their new jobs.
They replaced Myke Clarett of Youngstown, who handled those counties for former Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican.

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