By Tom Jeffery

Staff Writer

OTTAWA - In August, 2007, the office of the Board of Elections in Putnam County was flooded while the county was eventually declared a state of emergency by the Ohio governor.

Most of the county's Election Systems and Software (ES&S) iVotronic voting machines, 108 in all, were destroyed in the flood while 34 were salvaged. The Putnam County Board of Elections has since purchased a new voting system, the ES&S precinct-based optical scan machines, with the proceeds from the county's flood insurance.

The iVotronic voting machines, which records votes on internal flash memory, were acquired with federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant money.

The Putnam County Board of Elections has asked the Ohio Secretary of State's office whether there are any special requirements to follow prior to destroying the damaged voting machines. County officials have also been pursuing the possibility of selling the remaining 34 machines since 2008.

"We have been working on this," according to Putnam County Commissioner John Love. "We have been trying to transfer ownership with the old voting machines that are currently sitting in the old jail across from the court house. Since the flood, we have been required to store the equipment.

"My questions for quite some time were 'why can't we sell it and why do we have to shelter those things?,' but grant money was involved in the original sale of the voting machines, and when that occurs, there are requirements to follow."

It appears that a resolution might come in the near future to sell the remaining 123 electronic voting machines, after leasing 17 of the operational machines with Union County, Ohio, in September, 2008, along with portable printers and PEB readers.

"We are working with the Union County Commissioners to finalize a deal that would grant a sale of the voting machines, which includes the damaged iVotronics and the operational machines, printers and other parts. It would give us a lot of storage room in the old jail."

The sale might be finalized by the end of this month, according to Love.

In the meantime, the Putnam County Commissioner has been busy matching serial numbers and compiling a final list of items included in the possible sale.

The purchase price has yet to be determined.

Questions regarding the disposal of HAVA-funded equipment were presented to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in May, 2008. The assistance of Mr. Curtis Crider of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission was also requested by the Putnam County Commissioners.

In a letter from April 14, 2008 to Mr. Crider from Elections Counsel Erick Gale, of the office of the Ohio Secretary of State, it says that "the federal Common Rule provides that units of equipment acquired by non-state grantees and subgrantees may be disposed of when the item or items have a current per-unit fair market value of less than $5,000."

"It certainly became a federal issue, and there were many channels to go through," Love said. "It has been time consuming but we hope it will all be worth it."