Heller rules Wednesday on voting machines | NevadaAppeal.com

Heller rules Wednesday on voting machines

Secretary of State Dean Heller says he’ll announce his decision Wednesday on which electronic voting system the state should purchase.

Heller said he intends to move forward in meeting the requirements of the Help America Vote Act even if Congress fails to approve the funding Nevada needs to buy the machinery.

The state already has $5 million in federal funds to implement the requirements. Another $5.7 million is tied up until Congress approves the Election Assistance Commission which will dole out the cash to the states.

Officials at the Election Center Inc., in Washington, D.C., advised county clerks including in Nevada on Monday it was “unlikely (in fact almost no chance) that the U.S. Senate will pass the bill” before adjourning today until the new year.

“We’ll have the money for the machines even if we have to put together some financial package,” said Heller.

He said both the major firms bidding for the state’s contract, Sequoia and Diebold, have said they can put together a financial plan if the money is delayed.

Heller said the $5 million Nevada already has would buy about two-thirds of the machines needed.

He estimated the state needs at least 4,500 machines. If Clark County keeps its existing system, the state will have to buy about 1,500 new machines to provide county election officials one machine for every 175 voters.

Heller said the idea is to have the machines delivered by March so clerks around the state can train on how to use them and get voters familiar with the new electronic touch-screen devices before September 2004 primaries.

Douglas County Clerk Barbara Reed said she doesn’t think the state should buy any machines until the money is in hand. She said she thinks it will cost more than Heller has estimated because the cost in Douglas alone is nearly $1 million.

“I would think we need to proceed with caution here,” she said. “Otherwise we could end up with the state having a pretty large bill.”

She and several other clerks including Carson City’s Alan Glover have urged Heller to wait and plan on having new machines in all counties for the 2006 elections rather than next year.