Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Voting Machines Decertified Due to Security Issues

Win-Vote machine recently decertified over security vulnerabilities.

When the Virginia Board of Elections announced their decision to decertify all of the Win-Vote voting machines in the state, Montgomery County wasn’t caught flat-footed. According to Montgomery County Registrar Randall Wertz, although there have been no issues with the Win-Vote machines since they were first used in 2005, his office began phasing out the county’s 115 machines in 2012 in favor of a system that uses paper ballots and an optical scanner. Currently the Win-Vote machines are only needed to provide curbside service for disabled voters. After yesterday’s ruling by the State, the County will be forced to switch to a new method of providing curbside voting in order to remain ADA compliant.

The cost to the county of retiring these machines will still be significant, but not as bad as it will be for some of our neighbors. According to Wertz, the cost of replacing the machines still in use with an ADA compliant system known as the Unisyn OVI could be as high as $128,000. Thirty new machines will be needed at a cost of $4000 each, with additional costs related to needed accessories and supplies. Although this still represents a large expenditure for the County, it would have been much larger if all 115 of the decertified machines were still in use. Since there will be no June primary election the County will have until the November 3rd general election, but it will take time to acquire the machines and train all of the election officers on their use. 

“The Unisyn OVI machines are compatible with the Unisyn OVO machines we currently use,” Wertz explained. “Once a disabled person votes, it prints out a paper ballot that is then fed into the OVO scanner to record the vote”.

The decision to decertify the Win-Vote machines came despite a request by the Montgomery County Registrars office to allow the machines to continue in operation with the system’s Wi-Fi functions disabled. According to Wertz, the only security issues found involved the Wi-Fi functions that are only turned on after the polls close for vote consolidation purposes, and are not really necessary. “The machine can be modified to permanently disable the wireless functions,” he said. “The chip can be removed”.

The Registrar’s Office has requested a proposal from the manufacturer for the total cost of the new machines. The issue is expected to be taken up at the next regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors on April 27th.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Early Morning Fire Destroys Home In Prices Fork

Montgomery County, Va. - An early morning fire totally destroyed a Montgomery County home this morning.  Neighbors on Doubletree Lane in the Prices Fork area were awakened by the light of flames towering above the trees surrounding the 10 year old two-story log structure and called 911. Two of the home’s occupants were transported to the hospital to be checked out, and have since been released.

Marlin Harris, the owner of the home, watched from a neighbor’s home as members of the Blacksburg Volunteer Fire Department worked to cool down the smoldering ruins of his home, but despite his loss he managed to keep his sense of humor. “It burnt up,” he quipped when asked if anyone knew what happened. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Times, They Are A Changing!

Well, from all indications Spring has sprung! The weather is turning warmer, birds are once again in abundance, and best of all outdoor activities are once again in our plans. Of course, along with the good comes the bad not-so-good, such as mowing grass, pollen, and stinging insects. From my perspective, it’s a good trade-off.

I’ve spent the past week or so helping my John Deere riding mower celebrate its 25th birthday with new belts, bearings, and well-deserved oil change, and now it’s almost ready to tackle another summer’s worth of grass. While doing so I happened to glance over and see the first red wasp of the season, and it reminded me that now is the time to keep an eye out for nest building activities around the house. Although I do understand the beneficial nature of the evil looking little critters, no one wants an unexpected confrontation with a dozen or so of them when they’re angry. By the way, if you are one of those unfortunate souls with a severe allergy to bee stings now is an excellent time to check the expiration date on your Epi-pen; be sure to ask your doctor for a new prescription if yours is out of date.

One of the great things about living in Montgomery County is the Huckleberry Trail and with the new extension almost completed, with the exception of one set of hand rails, this is the perfect time to break out the walking shoes or bike and make the most of the wonderful weather. Along with the Huckleberry Trail, there are a number of other great places to hike, bike, and ride horseback in the area; there is no excuse to spend your days inside, let’s get out and move a little!

Among the outdoor events that will be on the calendar for the summer are Up On The Roof, which starts the 2015 season on April 30th, The Blacksburg Chocolate Festival on April 18th, Fork & Cork on April 19th, the International Street Fair, also on April 19th (definitely a day to spend in Blacksburg). Don’t forget the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market, the Community Market of Blacksburg, and the new Christiansburg Farmer’s Market.

Need to get the kids up to speed on their swimming skills for the summer? Swimming lessons and lots of opportunities to practice are available at both the Christiansburg Aquatic Center and the Blacksburg Aquatic Center. Please don’t let a family outing turn into a very preventable disaster, teach your kids to swim.

This is the time to get out and about, whether your interests lie in nature, downtown, music festivals, target shooting, horseback riding, gardening, fishing, kayaking, or any number of other great outdoor activities. Be safe, be active, and get out there and make the most of life!

Happy Spring!