Booth vs Box debate continues in Perryville

Perryville’s mayor and commissioners continue to debate whether to keep using electronic voting machines, even when there is no challenge in the ballot.

PERRYVILLE — The mayor and commissioners are leaning toward keeping the electronic voting machines even if there is no contest in the town elections.

“If you go back to the paper ballots you might as well go to chisel and stone,” said Perryville Mayor Robert Ashby.

Fred Sussman, the town’s attorney, re-wrote the original resolution to allow for the ballot box after the mayor and commissioners tabled the resolution at the Jan. 7 town meeting. The vote followed public hearings held on measures to change the terms in office to three years and the no-contest issue.

At the town work session Tuesday the board discussed the possible revised charter amendment that would have called for paper ballots in an election with no challenge. Citing the low turnout over the past several election cycles, it was considered as a compromise for the expense. In the May 2019 election 102 of the town’s more than 2,700 registered voters participated in a ballot that only presented incumbents Michelle Linkey and Pete Reich as the commissioner candidates.

Since then the board has approved charter changes that increase the term in office and remove the write-in ballot.

Each election costs the town $3,000; most of which is for the rental of the electronic voting machines. Noting that cost is less than 1% of the town’s budget, Denise Breder, town administrator, brought up another point to consider.

“What if we had a referendum?” Breder asked. Referendums are usually centered around large expenditures or changes in policy for which the voters are a deciding factor.

Commissioner Robert Taylor stated the electronic machines would be necessary in the event of a referendum before the voters.

Breder also told the board that the machines need to be contracted in January, while the deadline to become a candidate falls in April.

“We won’t know until April if we have a no-contest,” Breder said.

Perryville abandoned the ballot box in 2008 and used the electronic booths in its 2009 election.

“We’re not doing paper ballots,” Ashby insisted. “The town has advanced. We’re not going back.”

Ashby also felt that paper ballots give better opportunity for cheaters and those beholden to the write-in ballot.

“But we’ve already said no write-ins will be considered,” Taylor said.

Still, Ashby said the modern technology is the way to go.

“With the machines you can have the results counted in 10 minutes,” Ashby said. “And there is no chance for cheating.”

The resolutions that were approved — the terms in office and the end of write-in ballots — will become law Feb. 26 if no petition to put it to a referendum is submitted by Feb. 16.

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