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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Supervisors Question Purchase Of Dominion Voting Machines

Issue Date: December 17, 2020

With national controversy still raging over alleged misuse of Dominion Voting machines to skew results of the November presidential election in some states, Marinette County recently used "Routes To Recovery" and other Covid-19 grant money to buy 26 of the machines, one for each of the 25 voting districts and two for one of them. The City of Marinette already has two of it own.

County Administrator John LeFebvre reported at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15 that the $73,200 voting machine order had been placed prior to committee and County Board approval to meet deadlines and avoid loss of any of the Covid-related funding.

LeFebvre also reported county departments had moved into the newly remodeled Resource Center adjacent to the courthouse by the first of December as planned, including the economic support unit also handles energy assistance. It would have cost the county an additional $10,000 to stay there another month, LeFebvre said.

He said the moves had been accomplished with the help of personnel from Facilities Maintenance, Parks, Forestry and Highway Departments.

There are still some things to finish up in the conversion of the old Law Enforcement building on Ella Court Street into the new Resource Center, but the basic renovation is complete, LeFebvre told the board. He noted the plans had been finalized in mid-February of 2020, and declared being able to get the project completed during nine months of a pandemic was "absolutely amazing," and extended congratulations to the contractors and the people who work with them.

LeFebvre noted he has been working with the MAMBA group to establish a Mountain Bike trail through the County Forest, and location has been decided.

The state Health Department and CDC have issued some new coronavirus advisories that can shorten the quarantine period after exposure, but Marinette County has decided to maintain the 14-day quarantine for its non-symptomatic employees. Most of these people are able to work from home, he said.

LeFebvre reported the County Treasurer's office would be mailing out tax bills later in the week. Printing was delayed due to use of new land records software. A new feature this year is that taxpayers can pay their bills on-line, through E-Check, at a cost of only 25 cents per transaction - a huge change from the cost of on-line payments in past years, when the cost was a prohibitive 2.5 percent of the amount of the bill.

Two more houses taken for non-payment of taxes are being rehabilitated through the agreement with NEWCAP, and there is to be another opportunity for bidders who may want to buy the first one, where renovation is complete. Six other structures taken on tax deed were deemed beyond repair and are being demolished by county workers.

He said over $615,000 of Covid grant money had come directly from the state, plus another $175,764 from other sources and the $73,200 from county municipalities specifically for the voting machines, for a total of $922,132.92 in Routes to Recovery money and total related expenses of $932,709,63. He said they had deliberately exceeded the grant funding by $10,000 in case any of the grant expenditures were disallowed.

LeFebvre said because the municipalities had turned over balances in their Routes To Recovery funds for purchase of the voting machines, no county money is being used for that purpose. Everybody saves because the county got a better price for everyone by the large purchase, and when they arrive the voting machines will be delivered to each of the municipalities as promised.

LeFebvre said both he and County Clerk Kathy Brandt had done a lot of research on the Dominion machines. They are not hooked up to the Internet while voting is going on, but can be connected later to report totals to the County Clerk's office and others, LeFebvre said. They read special paper ballots which currently are produced in Wisconsin by only two or three print shops. The ballots are fed into the machine after being marked by voters, and both the actual paper ballots and the machine tally are available for later checking if a recount is needed.

LeFebvre acknowledged that the results from the machines have been challenged in many states and counties, but said they have been proven accurate and research has shown that the only errors were caused by users, not by the machines.

He said the CARES/Routes to Recovery funding report must be signed and submitted right after the County Board meeting, and they will run the expenses through the committee after the fact in order to not lose the funding.

Supervisor Clancy Whiting said he heard a rumor that Beecher was no longer to be a voting place, and expressed hope that was not true.

LeFebvre assured him that Beecher will be getting one of the voting machines, as will every other polling pace. "There's a machine for everybody," he repeated. He said each district will have other election related expenses, and the machines will need to be set up every year, but repeated if Beecher was discontinued as a polling place it would not be because the county had done it.

To a question from Supervisor Ted Sauve, LeFebvre said all of the machines being purchased are brand new, not refurbished.

Supervisor George Kloppenburg said he had read a report stating that in one Michigan district failure of the Dominion voting machines was 68 percent.

Supervisor Ginger Deschane said she had read that there were errors in the programs, and it was not the machines themselves, but the programs, that caused the problems.

Supervisor Robert Holley wondered what would happen if a district ran out of ballots, since they cannot be printed locally and there are only a couple of places in the state that do it. LeFebvre felt the polling place could print copies of ballots for voters to use, but those would need to be counted by hand, since the machines could not count them.

County Board Chair John Guarisco said he understood that everyone gets a paper ballot, and those ballots are kept, so if you think there is a mistake the actual ballots can be counted.

Supervisor Don Pazynski commented the Dominion voting machines are manufactured in Canada, but so far, not a single machine has been purchased by anyone in Canada. He said there are currently three lawsuits in Texas challenging results of polling places that used the Dominion voting machines.

"I don't know why we couldn't wait a little bit and make sure our decision was a wise one," Pazynski continued. "Why the hurry?...Don't we have a little time to stand back and reassess our decision?"

Pazynski said he knows of four lawsuits currently in progress involving those machines, and cautioned, "Whatever decision we make today has to stand tomorrow."

"The rush was to use the money from Covid grants before they expired in mid-November to get fully funded," LeFebvre responded. He said County Clerk Kathy Brandt had done due diligence before recommending these machines.

Supervisor Mike Behnke commented the Dominion machine not only reads the ballot, but also shows you what you voted, so you have a chance to change your vote before that ballot is cast. He added that the decision had been made to buy the Dominion machines before the Covid dollars entered the picture, "So it was a godsend that the money is here now to pay for them."

Guarisco said it had been a interesting conversation, and expressed confidence that the board will get more information on the Dominion voting machines in the coming months.

LeFebvre agreed, and said he does not think they will be used for the 2021 Spring elections, but expects they will be available for the election after that.

Later in the meeting the board authorized the Emergency Management Coordinator to apply for an Emergency Management Performance Grant through Covid-19 supplemental funds for an amended award amount of up to $23,573.33 with an equal county match to buy Motorola radios, and also approved a separate motion authorizing transfer of $18,448.33 from 2020 contingency funds to provide the required county matching funds.


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