[Image via mundelein]
Issues of voting technology – what to buy, from whom to buy it and how to deploy it once it’s bought – get a lot of attention in the field (and by extension on this blog). But today’s news brings a story of what happens when that technology is no longer needed or suited for the job – which in Lackawanna County, PA means taking 500 touchscreen machines to an electronic recycling center. The Times-Tribune has more:
Lackawanna County’s 525 touchscreen voting machines only tallied results for three elections before the state decertified them in 2007. Now, parts of them will find new life in other machines.
The county dropped off the defunct voting machines at Lackawanna County Recycling Center on Wednesday, taking advantage of the operation’s free electronics recycling that runs through the end of the month.
Recycling wasn’t the county’s first choice; the county election director tried everything before essentially dumping the machines, which cost the county about $400,000:
“I had hoped to find a buyer over the years, but I was unsuccessful,” Director of Elections Marion Medalis told commissioners before they approved disposing of the system. “I did reach out to the (Pennsylvania) Department of State and also to other voting machine vendors (hoping) they would have been able to assist me, but nothing. No bites at all.”
Lackawanna County bought the Advanced Voting Solutions touchscreen machines in 2006 for $1.7 million, but then only used them for two primary elections and one general election before the state suspended their use for the 2007 general election, and then decertified them.
The move rendered the system useless in Lackawanna, Wayne and Northampton counties. Lackawanna County bought the current optical-scan voting system in 2008 to replace the AVS machines for $1.3 million, for which the state reimbursed the county.
Recycling the machines not only gets the units of the county’s books – it also gets them off the shelves, which has been a bigger problem lately:
Ms. Medalis was relieved to finally be rid of them after the machines have been stored in county warehouses and moved three times before Lackawanna Recycling Inc., owned by Dunmore businessman Louis DeNaples, agreed to take them.
This story is a vivid reminder that expensive technical items – even voting equipment – one day become surplus material. I have been to local election offices where old or decertified equipment is stacked almost literally to the ceiling because the jurisdiction can’t use it but doesn’t know where to send it next. I’ve heard of a secondary market for voting machines but it’s likely that more and more jurisdictions may be looking at a solution similar to Lackawanna’s.
It’s not quite ashes to ashes, but it is helpful to remember that today’s purchases are future recycling fodder – or even garbage. I’ll be curious to see how other jurisdictions handle the same issue.
Stay tuned …