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Election machines

Warren County Election Commissioners Beth McLaughlin, left, and William Van Ness test an election machine to make sure it is reading the ballots correctly, in preparation for Election Day in November 2017. Their office got the go-ahead last week to purchase electronic pollbooks for the November general election.

QUEENSBURY — Warren County’s Board of Elections will get electronic voting “pollbooks” in the coming months despite concerns by the county’s budget officer about security of the devices.

The county Board of Supervisors approved spending $86,887 for 90 tablet computers and entering into a software licensing contract for $11,250 annually for computers and software from Tenex Software Solutions of Florida.

The equipment will be used by election inspectors to check voters in during elections, and won’t be used by voters.

The push to allow early voting will require that election inspectors have real-time information about who voted, and it is billed as helping streamline the voting process as well. Each polling site will be assigned one, and the plan is to have the equipment and staff trained in time for the November general election.

Most counties across the state are moving to the equipment, including Washington County, and state grant funding will pay the tab for the equipment and for training. But the counties will make the purchases themselves, with state reimbursement coming down the road.

Warren County Democratic Elections Commissioner Beth McLaughlin told supervisors last month that it was hoped that equipment would be in hand for training next month. Republican Commissioner William VanNess said initial training showed the system was easy to use and inspectors picked it up quickly.

“Our inspectors grabbed it pretty quick,” VanNess said. “They worked well for us in the training we did.”

Inspectors will still have paper voter rolls to serve as backup if the equipment fails, he added.

The Board of Supervisors approved the purchase, but Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas, the county’s budget officer, expressed concern about the possibility of adversaries “hacking” them and misusing the information.

While acknowledged that the system is billed as tamper-proof, he said many systems have been billed as such only to be compromised.

He said he understood that voting rolls are public, but had concerns about people accessing them to change information.

Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan and Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer said the data would not be accessible to hackers, however.

“I feel pretty secure we can move forward on this,” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Brad Magowan said.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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