CLARION – Just under the wire of their end-of-the-year deadline, Clarion County officials earlier this week selected a vendor for the county’s new voting machines.

At their meeting Tuesday morning, Commissioners Ted Tharan, Wayne Brosius and Ed Heasley unanimously voted to accept a recommendation from the Clarion County Board of Elections to enter an agreement with Dominion Voting Systems Inc. for the county’s new election equipment.

“The current Board of Elections made the decision. They are still in charge,” Tharan explained of Judy Fiscus, Karen Knepshield and Nancy Kadunce who were appointed to the Election Board in place of the commissioners for the reelection year. “We had to make a selection by the end of the year.”

According to the commissioners, the county will enter an eight-year agreement with Dominion to lease 42 new voting machines at a total cost of approximately $650,008.

“That’s $81,250.96 per year,” Heasley noted.

The commissioners explained that they are also expecting the state to cover 60 percent of the total cost, as well as some additional money from the federal government. If all goes as planned, the state will pay $390,000, leaving the county to pay only approximately $260,000 out of pocket.

“The nice thing about leasing — as opposed to purchasing outright — is that if there are any updates or the machines break, they [Dominion] will replace them,” Tharan said, adding that the county also has an opt out in the lease if the machines are ever decertified or something else goes wrong.

Although not the least expensive option, Heasley said Dominion’s package included several free built-ins such as a five-year warranty, a staff member to help at the polls for the first full year, software and equipment upgrades and the removal of the old machines.

“Dominion seems like a good company,” Heasley said, noting Armstrong, Jefferson and Crawford counties also use equipment from Dominion. “Other counties seem to be happy with them.”

Similar to the machines recently purchased in Armstrong County, Clarion County opted to go with a hand-marked paper ballot system with scanner. This means that voters will mark ballots by hand to cast their votes before delivering them to a scanner that will tally the ballot. Tallied ballots are then placed into a box on site, which can be accessed if a recount is necessary.

Tharan noted that all of the new equipment is made in the United States.

Although the big decision is made, Heasley said there is still “a lot of work” to be done in the coming months before the new machines can be used in the spring primary election. In addition to finalizing the contract with Dominion and getting the equipment, he said the county will have to train poll workers, develop procedures and initiate education programs for the voters.

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“Once the contract is negotiated, [we] are going to bring the machines up so the public can come in and see the machines and test them out,” Heasley said.

Heasley thanked the Election Board for their time and effort in selecting new voting machines for the county.

“They did a lot of work and put a lot of time and effort into picking the machines,” he said, explaining that the board met with four possible companies on multiple occasions to select the machine it thought was best. “They took the job seriously and did it right.”

Other Business

• A request was approved for the release of funds and certification for the Clarion County Housing Authority pertaining to their five-year action plan for capital funds.

• The resignation of Todd Kline, CYS administrator, was accepted effective Jan. 10, 2020. Later in the meeting, Teresa Holdren was repositioned to the newly created position of interim CYS administrator at a cost of $250 per week in addition to her regular salary effective Dec. 6.

The resignation of CYS employee Michael McDonald was also accepted effective Dec. 6.

• County officials approved a lease agreement with Moore-Goble Partnership for the Penn State Extension office located along South Second Avenue in Clarion.

The term of the lease is Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2022 at a cost of $1,669.50 per month.

• Keith Decker and Eugene Metcalf were reappointed, and Eugene Lerch was appointed to four-year terms on the Planning Commission effective Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2023.

• Sandy Ion was repositioned into the newly created full-time position of Human Services fiscal director at a salary of $45,100 effective Dec. 16.

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