Chesterton Tribune



Election Board to bid out equipment contracts

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Members of the Porter County Election Board continued to argue over electronic poll books on Friday but did came to a consensus not to purchase any more election equipment until contracts can be put out to bid.

Following approval of a resolution to use the e-poll books already in the county’s possession only in early voting locations this year, Democratic member J.J. Stankiewicz talked of his concern about “$180,000 in play” which he later clarified as how much is owed on the poll books from Electronic Software and Systems.

Fellow board member and County Clerk Karen Martin said Stankiewicz’s math differs from hers as she asserted the purchases pending are three installments of $49,000. Stankiewicz said the $180,000 is a figure he’s heard discussed that may have been reported by the County Auditor’s office.

County Auditor Vicki Urbanik after the meeting said claims for payments on poll books have come into her office and the election board spent $131,000 for ballots and coding last year, but she is not sure where Stankiewicz got his figure or what exact amount is owed on the poll books.

A request for nearly $99,000 to make the payment to vendor Electronic Software and Systems will be made by the Election Board at the Porter County Council’s meeting next Tuesday.

The board acquired 69 poll books last year without having the County Council’s approval for funding before signing the contract and so far the Council has responded by denying requests to transfer funds for the bill. The Council said it would consider the request again after the November general elections so as to evaluate how well the e-poll books performed.

Stankiewicz said he feels it’s “not a given we all won’t end up in court” over the contract for equipment not being let out for bids. A court could determine the contract to be void.

Stankiewicz voted against allowing the e-poll books to be used for early voting, event after being told by Martin and Board President and Republican member David Bengs that the resolution had “nothing to do about the payment.” Both Bengs and Martin voted for the measure.

The board opted not to use the e-poll books on Election Day because there are not enough to be set up at every polling place.

With the contract for equipment up at the end of this year, Stankiewicz asked his colleagues to take bids. Bengs and Martin had said the contract for the e-poll books did not need to be bid out because it was under $150,000, the minimum amount the state mandates for purchases to require bids.

“I advise that no equipment will be purchased until the contracts are bid out,” said Stankiewicz, making his statement into a motion.

Martin and Bengs agreed, with Bengs adding that election officials will also need the software required to run the equipment.

“This is going to be the whole ball of wax,” he said.

Campaign report letters

Also on Friday, the Election Board directed its attorney Ethan Lowe to notify current or former candidates who have failed to turn in their campaign finance reports.

Martin, who now takes the reports at her office, said she’s determined that 17 candidates are not up to date. Many of them are no longer in office but have not filed to disband their committees, she said.

Lowe said he would send out letters asking candidates to file reports or disband their committees by the beginning of March. The Election Board looks to set hearings for those who don’t comply and impose fines for violators.

The board will meet next on Friday, March 18 when it will review the list.


Posted 2/22/2016




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