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No funds for voting machines in bill
Senate panel strips $20 million from measure, leaving more burden on counties

By LYNN BONNER,    Charlotte Observer    28 July 2005

The North Carolina legislature would give counties little, if any, state money this year to buy voting equipment that meets new requirements.

The measure stiffening standards on voting equipment was stripped of $20 million that counties were looking for to help them meet the standards.

"If the state is placing mandates on counties specifically for election equipment and what it should be able to do, the state should pay for that," said Paul A. Meyer, lobbyist for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

Though several members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the cost to counties, the measure cleared the committee Wednesday on its way to a vote of the full Senate.

The proposal requires counties to use equipment that produces a paper ballot that the voter can examine and that can be counted afterward. The measure is a reaction to the debacle last year in Carteret County, where a control box connected to ATM-style voting machines failed to record more than 4,000 votes.

The bill presented at the Appropriations Committee did not include the $20 million that was in earlier versions. The committee removed the remaining $600,000 for ongoing State Board of Elections expenses. Money to cover those costs will be in the budget bill.

The counties won't have to come up with all the money for new voting equipment.

The state has $53 million, most from the federal government, that can be used to help buy new machines.

"That may or may not be enough," said Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a Charlotte Democrat who worked on the bill. "That may be more than enough. There's no way to know that in advance."

Joyce McCloy of Winston-Salem, who is leading a group pushing the legislature to require machines with paper records, said she was not worried that the money was gone.

"There will still be enough money to fund the least expensive and most reliable machines," she said of the equipment that reads pen marks on paper, called optical scan machines.

She said that if counties want the ATM-style machines, they can use their own money.

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