To make sure its new electronic voting system works properly, Essex County is holding a mock election.

The test election in June will enable correction of any glitches with the county's new voting machines prior to the September primary, County Democratic Election Commissioner David Mace said Monday.

This will be the first year that all voters are required to use the electronic machines. In previous years, the county had one at each polling place for handicapped use or any others who wanted to use it, but lever-type mechanical voting machines were the main devices used.

Now the mechanical voting machines have been retired by order of the State Board of Elections, and only electronic machines using Election Management System software will be used.

"We are anticipating it will cost on the order of $35,000 for technicians who will be entirely responsible for all steps of ballot configuration, machine configuration, machine deployment and machine testing," Mace said.

The estimate covers two technicians, one for each party, and eight weeks of setup for each election.

Mace said there will be three election events this year — the mock election, and primary and general elections.

"We will be trained on the use of that system for ballot configuration. We will go into an intensive mock election. There is no way around that."

Essex County uses ImageCast optical scanning devices that read a paper ballot into the Election Management System. The ballot scanner then prints the results for that machine at the conclusion of the election.

County Republican Election Commissioner Derinda Sherman said the equipment hasn't been certified by the state until now.

"That's why it's problematic and we don't have the money for it."

The County Board of Supervisors Ways and Means Committee tentatively approved the $35,000, with a final vote next Monday.

"It's very clear it was mandated, and it was not put in their budget," said Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand), who moved the resolution.

Mace said some money is left from the federal Help America Vote Act grant the county used to buy the new voting machines.

"We can very possibly buy the paper ballots this year" using the Vote Act funds, Mace said.

Sherman said they'll use up the Vote Act money before they spend county money.

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport) said he knew the Vote Act was going to end up costing the county.

"We had a system (mechanical machines) that was working and could do it in a relatively inexpensive way."

Now they have to abandon those machines and follow the new requirements, he said.

"We have no choice. But it's an unfunded mandate that will go right back on the property tax."

E-mail Lohr McKinstry at:

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