ANDERSON — The dispute between two governmental bodies in Madison County over the purchase of additional voting machines is likely to be settled in court.
Last week the Madison County Election Board approved a contract with Election Systems & Software (ES&S) to purchase an additional 170 voting machines and 15 tabulators at cost of $766,376.
The election board approved a four-year lease/purchase agreement with ES&S and directed Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner to pay the claim.
Last Tuesday, County Attorney Jonathan Hughes of Bose McKinney & Evans sent a letter to ES&S attorney that since the contract to purchase the additional voting machines was not approved by the commissioners, the company might not be paid.
In his letter, Hughes said state law requires all contracts and all payments to be approved by the commissioners and that the election board acted outside the scope of its authority.
Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt, a member of the election board, said Friday the additional voting equipment has been ordered and is ready to be shipped.
“ES&S wants to be confident that they will be paid,” she said.
Mike Farrer, attorney for the election board, said the board has not decided how to proceed following the action by the commissioners.
Farrer believes that state law allows the election board to enter into a contract and that the auditor should pay any claims.
He said the primary being postponed until June 2, instead of May 5, buys county officials some time to resolve the issue.
Farrer said state statute indicates that if there is any interference with the election process the election board can ask the local prosecuting attorney or the Indiana attorney general to issue an opinion.
Hughes said the election board didn’t go through a public bidding process to purchase the additional voting machines and that the auditor should not pay any claims.
Both Hughes and Farrer agreed that a Madison County judge could sign an order directing the auditor to pay any claims from ES&S.
The dispute started earlier this month when the commissioners failed to vote on a resolution to establish vote centers in Madison County.
The Madison County Council approved the vote center resolution and has also approved a maximum of $850,000 to pay for additional voting equipment.
The commissioners didn’t vote on the resolution when a motion made by Commissioner John Richwine was not seconded.
The deadline to submit a vote center application to the state was March 5.
The Election Board intended to establish 28 vote centers for the 2020 election cycle and eight satellite centers that would be open for early voting.