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Cumberland County Freeholders
County urged to replace voting equipment

BRIDGETON Cumberland County elections officials issued dire warnings Thursday to the freeholder board over a lack of progress in preparing for a costly transition to electronic voting.

State and federal governments directed that mechanical voting machines be replaced by electronic machines no later than January 2006.

James Parent, administrator of the county Board of Elections, said about $1.3 million is needed to buy about 120 electronic voting machines and supporting software.

The machines are similar to those being used in Salem and Gloucester counties.

Parent wants machines available in time to use in next year's Millville municipal election as a test run.

The cost doesn't end with the machines something Parent and members of the Board of Elections stressed Thursday.

Board Chairman Harry Peek said the state is ready to reimburse the county $325,000.

However, it won't release the money if the county does not acquire a climate-controlled storage facility for the new machines.

Freeholders have not set aside money for that purpose. A leased property could satisfy the requirement, but a new building may be needed.

Peek also said a $50,000 to $60,000 cost reduction is available from the manufacturer only if the machines are ordered this year.

Peek and Parent indicated their board is frustrated that planning is not further along.

Ken Mecouch, the county's purchasing agent, estimated that a pre-engineered building could be acquired and erected by May 2005.

Freeholder Louis Magazzu, who also chairs the finance committee, said the county's new budget may be introduced in May. That would set up a June adoption vote.

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