It all started with the election fiasco of 2000. Hanging chads are starting to fade from memory but their effects are still resonating in Washington. It goes beyond that though, legislators want to make sure everyone has access to a private and accurate polling place.
Dorothy Kennedy, Lubbock County Elections Administrator says, "The federal mandate simply states that each voting precinct will have a touch screen or DRE (which is direct recording equipment) which will be in every polling place that will make sure the handicapped have access to a private, secure ballot."
In 2002, President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) into law. When Kennedy set out to determine what that would cost the county, she was taken aback. "It was $810,000, so I had to, with a shaky hand, write those figures on our budget request to take to commissioners."
County Commissioner, Kenny Maines, says "There's always discussion on concerns about an increase in the tax rate. If we look at this as an additional cost that will be placed on the county for the purchase of these machines, we're looking at every five years having the same cost, possibly more."
Commissioner Maines says the cost of purchasing voting machines and training elections personnel will add a penny to the county's tax rate which stands now at nineteen cents. He says, "A penny is a substantial increase percentage-wise to that rate. County commissioners are frustrated because the government often forces mandates onto counties with little or no reimbursement. They also question what the county would do if the need for a re-count arose. Maines says, "If there's no paper to re-count, what do you do?" Kennedy says, "I would like to test them out in the constitutional ammendment election, which will be September of 2005 or November of 2005."
Lubbock county has 90 precincts, two are consolidated so there are 88 actual voting locations that will require new voting machines. By federal law, they are required to have them by January 1st, 2006. Right now the elections office is seeking the community's input. They want to create a committee to research the machines themselves and their use in Lubbock County.