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Officials consider electronic poll books

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission may apply for a grant to buy new electronic poll books for future elections.

County Clerk Mark Rhodes appeared before the commission Monday for approval of the grant to pay for 70 new electronic poll books, one for each of the county’s 68 voting precincts with the extras for spares.

”These would replace the paper poll books,” Rhodes said. ”Every precinct would have one.”

He said such devices, an electronic version of the poll books people sign when they vote, would have been handy during the primary election.

”We can load the whole county on it,” Rhodes said. ”If someone walks in the wrong precinct, they can see they are in the wrong place and tell them where they need to go.

”Right now, they have to call our office and we tell them.”

Rhodes said the devices would help to encode the printed ballots for the precinct and the party when they are loaded into the counters.

In addition to the electronic poll books, the county will maintain a paper backup in case something happens, he said.

The grant also would pay for a replacement for the county’s current firewall system.

The county will request $163,002.50 through the Help America Vote Act. The county would be responsible for $25,050.

The commission has already applied for around $85,000 in reimbursement from for election expenses .

The commission tabled the matter until the county hears from the state about the $85,000 the county applied for to reimburse for additional expenses for the primary due to COVID-19. The Secretary of State’s Office is supposed to be reviewing that request next week.

Rhodes said the grant for the electronic poll books has to be submitted by July 31.

The commission agreed to bring up the grant on July 16.

If approved, Rhodes said the county would have the new electronic poll books before the November general election.

In other business, Rhodes said they still don’t have any indication from the state of when federal money the state has received in regard to COVID-19 will be distributed to the counties to help make up for lost revenue.

”What we are hearing is they haven’t made any criteria yet,” he said.

Couch said the county is losing out on the regular Hotel/Motel Tax income, Day Report Center client fees, picnic shelter rentals and more. Rhodes added they have lost out on property transfer tax as sales have been down.

”We have taken a hit,” Seufer said.

Local cities have taken a hit in the 1 percent sales tax they collect, he said.

Couch said the Wood County Sheriff’s Department is putting together numbers and costs to submit for reimbursement after local law-enforcement agencies had received money from the state to make up some of their expenses during the initial COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.

In other business, Commissioners talked with Alexander Vaughan, a representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., about police reform.

Couch said something needed to be done at the state level so deputy sheriffs are not solely handling mental hygiene calls. Others needed to be designated to fill that role so a deputy is not regularly being taken off active patrol to have to handle that. Couch said that will be something discussed with state lawmakers, whether that is creating units of personnel tasked with those calls, under the authority of the Department of Health and Human Resources or someone else.

”We want to keep them on more critical law-enforcement calls,” he said. ”There is a way to restructure law-enforcement without losing what we have.”

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