The Porter County
Council will consider purchasing new voting equipment at an emergency
meeting Tuesday, Jan. 29.
The Council will
meet at its regular time and place--5 p.m. in suite 205 of the Porter County
administration Center, 155 Indiana Avenue, Valparaiso-- to vote on the
matter after new Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey and a representative of
Election Systems & Software (ESS) discussed the benefits of new equipment at
the Council’s meeting last night.
comes after the Commissioners rejected a very similar proposal this time
last year. The hang-up then was that the Porter County Election Board
proposed polling place consolidation that would have cut Porter County’s
number of polling places nearly in half along with the purchase. $450,000
was encumbered at the end of 2017 for a down payment on the equipment and
remains earmarked for that purpose.
Last year, members
of both the Commissioners and County Council expressed concerns that there
wasn’t enough time between January and the primary to train employees on the
Bailey said she’s
confident Porter County needs the new equipment and that it would make
voting easier and more accessible in Porter County, as long as she gets it
fast. The earliest date it could be delivered is Jan. 31.
The equipment would
include 140 refurbished ballot scanners, e-pollbooks, and a new ballot
counter to be used at a central location. Indiana Manager for ESS Jeremy
Burton said the “refurbished” equipment was used in one election and is
still under warranty. Council President Dan Whitten, D-At-large asked why
the county that used the equipment in this past election didn’t keep it.
Burton said it had been rented.
Sylvia Graham, D-At-large, asked how much renting is. Burton said he could
get numbers on that, but it’s always more cost effective to buy. “Carrol
county has always rented. I checked, and they could have purchased that
system four times over in the time they rented that equipment.”
The price tag with
refurbished scanners is $1.8 million, with a separate maintenance agreement
at an extra cost. Burton said the cost of buying all new equipment would be
significantly higher, though the ballot counter would be new. County Auditor
Vicki Urbanik said the County could make a down payment this year and
finance the rest of the cost. ESS offered an interest rate of 7.5 percent,
and Election Board President David Bengs is shopping around for a better
rate with local banks.
Burton said the
equipment Porter County has, which is over a decade old, is no longer
getting system updates, but ESS will take it back as a trade-in. Council
member Bob Poparad, D-1st, skeptical of the term, asked if Porter County's
old machines will go somewhere else marked as "refurbished." Burton assured
that's not how it works.
going to recycle most of your old voting machines because most of the
country is moving from the 100 that you have today to this new machine, so
we’re seeing the market for that dry up,” Burton said. “Some of them will be
kept as spares for counties that aren’t able to upgrade.”
Poparad was still
skeptical of the purchase. He cautioned against buying in haste and
suggested that buying the e-pollbooks might be unnecessary. Whitten noted
the county has gotten complaints about them before, when they were used for
early voting on loan from ESS.
Poparad also said
the Council should consider where the problem really is. “Do we have
equipment issues, or do we have people issues? Do we have a lack of
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd expressed concern over the security of the e-pollbooks
and the fact that they require a reliable internet connection--another issue
officials worried about last time the proposal was before them. Rivas also
noted that there are two sides to the issue, a people problem and the
equipment being at end of life.
Vice-president Jeff Larson, R-At-large, said the decision to buy or not is
critical following the troubles with the general election last year. “We
have a public perception that we’re not ready to go on to another election,”
Larson said. “We need to make a decision here.”