Sponsored by Representative Pierce of Falmouth and referred to the Committee on Veterans & Legal Affairs, LD 1779 is designed to do 3 separate things. The first two relate to possession of ballots and municipal clerks and has significance that will likely be explored in the future, but its the third thing that caught my attention.
From the summary…
“The bill also prohibits the municipal clerk from transferring possession, custody or control of a voting machine or voting device to any person except as authorized by the Secretary of State.”
Maine’s ballots are tabulated in one of two ways. DS200 tabulators are currently used in the majority of municipalities. They fall under the category of “voting devices” and are responsible for tabulating over 90% of Maine’s ballots. The other option is that the municipality decides to hand count their ballots.
However, there is another option laid out in Title 21-A that is available to municipalities. Which is for a municipality to either purchase their own voting machines or voting devices, or to enter lease agreements themselves with a voting machine or voting device supplier directly. This would remove the Secretary of State as a “middle-man”, so long as the type of machines and devices acquired by the municipality are types approved for use by the Secretary of State’s office.
If A municipality were to forgo using leased equipment provided by the Secretary of State and instead chose to either purchase their own voting machine and voting devices or enter lease agreements directly with voting machine and device suppliers, then that municipality should have the right to transfer possession, custody or control of their own voting machines or voting devices to any person or entity they see fit. Other than approving their use, the Secretary of State should have no authority to limit what a municipality can and cannot do with their independently acquired property.
Because the cost structure for a single Maine municipality to enter a lease agreement with a company, like ES&S, is financially unlikely, this concern may seem unwarranted. And while this may be true under the current market conditions for leased machine/devices, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility, as has been proven in other states, for a single municipality or county to raise funds for outright purchase of voting machines and devices, including the DS200.
Even though the scenario I’m describing is currently unheard of in Maine, it’s an important option for municipalities that do not want to hand count ballots but would also prefer to not out-source the tabulation of their votes to voting machines and devices owned and updated by a private company.
Additionally, without clearly protecting the rights of a municipality to transfer possession, custody or control of voting machines and devices that the municipality acquired separate from the Secretary of State, LD 1779 could become a step in entirely removing a municipality’s right to acquire and operate their own voting machines and voting devices.
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