CANTON: The Stark County Board of Elections will rent up to 1,300 electronic voting machines for the May 7 primary because its own units were exposed to moisture, and some were submerged, when a warehouse roof collapsed during heavy rain Wednesday.
Elections Director Jeff Matthews told the board at an emergency meeting Friday that the machines might work well every day but fail Election Day.
“It sounds to me like these machines are totaled,” board member William Cline said. “We can’t put an election at risk with machines that are dodgy.”
Board member Samuel Ferruccio Jr. compared the voting machines to a phone or car that has been soaked.
“I don’t think we can take a chance with wet equipment,” he said.
Matthews said he has received no promises from the insurance company that the board’s policy would cover the complete cost of renting and eventually buying new voting machines.
But during a Thursday tour with the claims adjuster, he asked this question: “Had this been a room full of televisions, what would you do?”
The adjuster replied they would be scrapped and replaced, Matthews said.
Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton told the board Stark County’s insurance policy has a $10,000 deductible, with $1.2 million worth of coverage on the Board of Elections building and $5 million on contents.
The restoration contractor has said part of the warehouse roof that failed cannot be patched, Matthews said.
Creighton assured the elections board the roof would be replaced.
The staff plans to begin moving some computing equipment to its prospective new home, the Cohen-Joliet building on Regent Avenue Northeast, that formerly was used as a workshop for the developmentally disabled.
Rented voting machines are expected to be shipped there within two days.
The machines will come from Dominion Voting Systems Inc., of Denver, at $250 each, plus the cost of shipping from Texas. The company has offered to credit up to 90 percent of the rental price toward the purchase of new equipment.
Elections staff had planned to start the two-week process of testing voting equipment Thursday, Matthews said. That would have left one week to move machines to polling locations.
Even as the preparation schedule is compressed, elections staff has to decide how to handle the logistics of operating at two locations.
Deputy Director Jeanette Mullane said they are grappling with such questions as where to download and process data from the primary election.
“Our timeline doesn’t anticipate a roof collapse,” Matthews said.
Nancy Molnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.