Guam - After receiving not one but two letters from its vendor over the last months, the Guam Election Commission has decided to move forward with the recommendation of discontinuing the use of its decades old tabulation machines and purchase new ones.
GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan says she along with commissioners have agreed with Election Systems & Software that the cost to repair the GEC's current tabulators is cost-prohibitive. "So now the Commission will immediately look and set out a request for information for tabulators," she explained.
It was back in July when ES&S recommended GEC discontinue the use of its current tabulation machines, the same ones used for the past few elections that have encountered a series of problems. Just this week, the vendor noted it would cost $35,000 to repair each unit. She added, "That doesn't go with the grain in terms of what kind of technology is out there already and one of the discussions that came up is we have four of our tabulators and with new technology we won't need four, we may not need four. Maybe we'll need two or three, so it becomes more efficient, more effective and cost effective as well."
Pangelinan and the board have agreed to research more information on what machines would work best from Guam such as a precinct counter, which would actually count the ballot once the voter feeds it to the machine or updated models of the central tabulation system, the same ones the GEC currently uses. "With that," she added, "with knowing that we're going to send out the request for information now, it seems that we have ample time to get machines in place for the 2014 elections."
The primary election we should note is set for August 30 next year. But what about funding? Pangelinan says the cost for new equipment was not included in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request as the GEC did not have complete information and had not decided which route they wanted to go whether just repairing the old machines or buying new ones. She estimates anywhere from $50,000 to $85,000 each.
Election reform oversight chair Senator Rory Respicio meanwhile says he'll wait for an official request from the GEC but says he's open to have a hearing and working with the appropriations chair to ensure funds are identified in order OT have free and fair elections. "And I think to have the machines that are tamper proof, to have machines that have auditable paper trails, to have machines that count those votes accurately would lead to this feeling to those that have been elected have been elected legitimately," he said.
Pangelinan meanwhile says the GEC cannot use the Ivotronic machines because (1) it does not meet the mandate of a voter verified paper ballot, and (2) they have already been surveyed to GSA.