Elections Director Questions Voting Machine Veto
County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed a $1.2 million voting machine purchase because there was just one bid. Elections Director Rich Chrismer said that interferes with his job as an elected official.
St. Charles County Elections Director Rich Chrismer questioned why County Executive Steve Ehlmann vetoed a a $1.2 million voting machine purchase from Henry Adkins & Son.
“Why would the county executive, a man who has been a state legislator and a judge, want to jeopardize the right of the people to vote?” said Chrismer, who leads the county's Elections Authority.
Ehlmann announced Tuesday that he vetoed the purchase of 260 voting machines. He said he did not believe the county should spend that much money when there was just one bid.
“I believe that the director of elections should be given deference in determining the need to replace equipment and which machines to purchase,” Ehlmann said. “However, under the Charter, they are subject to county government regulations when it comes to personnel and purchasing.”
Chrismer agreed with that statement.
“But by his veto, he is denying me the ability, as an elected official, to determine what equipment we purchase,” the elections director said. “What he’s saying is he doesn’t like the results of the bid.”
Chrismer said he followed the county’s purchasing policy, including putting the voting machines out to bid although he knew only one company was qualified to make the bid. He said the county also has a single-source vendor policy.
“I said I don’t mind putting this out to bid, but you’re only going to get one bid,” Chrismer said. "Only one company is certified in Missouri."
Ehlmann said problems arise when federal and state governments regulate areas that have consequences only for county or local governments.
In his letter to the St. Charles County Council notifying members of his veto, Ehlmann wrote:
“Apparently, the federal government and secretary of state certification requirements have created a situation where a single provider is available to bid. As a result, the competitive bid process, designed to guarantee the taxpayers do not overpay, did not provide the necessary competition.”
He said there’s no guarantee St. Charles County is not drastically overpaying for the machines when one company has a monopoly in the state.
In 2002, before the newer 2005 regulations took affect, the state had four qualified vendors who could supply voting machines.
Chrismer said the standards are high, but they need to be tough because they protect the democratic process.
“He’s saying the federal and state regulations should not be as strict,” Chrismer said. “What should be more strict than regulations that protect people’s right to vote? You hear about voter fraud all the time.”
Ehlmann said there are reports that other vendors are going through the certification process.
Chrismer responded, “I can categorically deny that. There’s one company out there that’s been trying to qualify to go through certification for about three years.”
The Secretary of State’s website shows four certified companies, but that is old information based on the 2002 standards, he said.
Chrismer said he set aside money over seven years to purchase the machines.