The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 2, 2008

County, UniLect asking judge to settle question

MERCER COUNTY — Mercer County and UniLect Corp. have asked a federal judge to decide whether UniLect breached its contract with the county when its voting machines were decertified by state authorities.

County officials bought UniLect’s Patriot voting system in January 2001, and claimed UniLect officials promised that its equipment would conform to state specifications. If the machines did not conform, UniLect was supposed to correct them so they would, the county said.

The machines were decertified by the state on April 27, 2005, which disallowed their use for elections.

UniLect officials have blamed county officials with making coding errors and failing to test the machines, and said the state consultant who decertified the machines did so based on subjective requirements.

UniLect, of Danville, Calif., also said its one-year warranty had expired and that language in UniLect’s proposal that “merely hypothesizes about the useful life of the product” is not a warranty.

The county has been seeking to cover the purchase price of $897,000 minus the four years of use the county got from the machines, based on a 20-year life span; and the cost of renting optical-scan equipment in 2005 following the decertification.

Both of the summary judgment motions filed Tuesday center on this paragraph in the sales contract:

“UniLect warrants the products, as delivered, will conform with and perform according to the specifications required by the State of Pennsylvania as well as conform with and perform according to the specifications in this proposal and any contract arising therefrom. If any programs should not so perform, they shall be corrected or replaced by UniLect in a timely manner as mutually agreed.”

County litigation solicitor William G. McConnell Jr. said the paragraph and other language in the contract shows that UniLect’s warranty was intended to cover the life of the voting machine system.

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