There’s a saying, “There’s no harm in asking,” and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners seems to adhere to that belief because the commissioners have collectively decided to ask the State of North Carolina to give Guilford County $2 million since the state forced the county to spend that amount on new voting machines.
Guilford County commissioners approved the purchase of the new machines at the Thursday, Nov. 21 meeting; however, they only did so after Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne told the board that they essentially had no choice, since the county’s current voting machines – although in fine working order – would be decertified by the state at the end of the year.
“My analysis of the statutory position this board is in,” Payne said, “is that, in practical terms, you don’t have a choice.”
Payne said it was possible for the board to get a six month delay if it could show a financial hardship; however, Payne added, since the purchase either way would be made in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, the purchase would be made in the same fiscal year. Payne said that, given that, he didn’t see how any county in the state could successfully argue financial hardship as a reason for delay.
Regardless, a six-month delay really wouldn’t do Guilford County any good.
Commissioner Justin Conrad, who didn’t vote for the purchase of the new voting machines – he cast a vote to abstain, which is recorded as a no vote – suggested the county draft and send a letter to state legislators representing Guilford County asking that the state foot the bill for the county, or at least help with the cost.
Previously, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners sent two letters to the state legislators who represent the county requesting the state not force Guilford County to make the purchase.
“I would like to request that we send another letter to our Guilford County delegation and request [the state’s] participation in this expense,” Conrad said. “Because I do feel like we are here because our original requests went unheeded.”
Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson, went further.
“And add an invoice,” Branson instructed staff.
Branson’s comments drew some laughter at the meeting but it’s not clear he was joking.
The board is expected to draft the letter and approve the move to send it to those legislators.
One commissioner said this week that, even before the letter is sent, talks on this matter are going on between some commissioners and state legislators.