It was surprise Tuesday morning.
A two-man crew from the shipping company CEVA Logistics showed up at the Barton County Clerk’s Office to haul off the old electronic voting equipment. With the new machines expected next week, the removal wasn’t anticipated until Wednesday afternoon.
“But, it’s OK,” said Chris Saenz, voting equipment technician. Even though they had to scramble, the office was glad to see them go.
Now, there will be time to train on the new system before the next election which won’t take place until August if there is a primary or November if there is not.
Tuesday morning, the office staff mobilized and rolled the nine racks containing the 87 machines and assorted peripherals out of a secure, back room storage cage and into the courthouse second floor rotunda. The movers then took them down to the awaiting semi-truck.
The Barton County Commission in March approved purchasing new voting equipment from Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems and Software, which contracted with CEVA to take away the outdated devices. The $183,000 system will replace the county’s aging fleet of voting machines and make a move back to using paper ballots.
About the upgrade
The new system is a hybrid one, Donna Zimmerman, county clerk and election officer, said earlier. Voters will have the option to cast an electronic or paper ballots, but either way, there will be there will be paper ballots created that can be counted as many times as needed.
The now-removed voting equipment is 12 years old and was beginning to show wear. It needed to be replaced before it became unreliable, Zimmerman said.
Furthermore, under the Help America Vote Act, all Kansas voting systems must include electronic devices that enable an impaired voter to vote unassisted.
To meet HAVA requirements and to serve voters needs, Zimmerman and her staff recommended ESS, the company that provided the county’s old voting machines. It wasn’t the least expensive option, but after listening to presentations from three companies, they liked it the best.
The cost includes precinct scanners, electronic ballot marking devices, barcode scanners, encoders, hardened results computer and memory. Over it’s 10-year life expectance, the cost would be over $319,000, including ballots and maintenance.
Zimmerman’s office studied this issue since the current system turned 10 years old. That was in 2016 when replacement parts started becoming hard to find.
The department has already deployed 17 KnowInk Poll Pads to help streamline the election process. Use of the pads decreases staff time and supply costs, while improving the check-in process at polling places.
These took the place of paper poll books. But, are not to be confused with electronic voting machines and have nothing to do with casting ballots.
The Barton County Election Office put its 87 iVotronics machines (which cost about $2,500 each for a total of about $300,000) into service in 2006.
However, there were Help America Vote Act Endowment funds at that time which covered 90 percent of the county’s costs. That federal money will not be available this time, Zimmerman said.
This is what in large part prompted the office to consolidate polling stations, a change that went into effect for the first time last November.
The county went from 21 boards overseeing polling at 23 sites countywide to nine boards and 11 locations. Fewer locations meant less equipment, making the conversion less expensive.