News and Tribune

April 3, 2013

Decision on Floyd County voting machines questioned

Company’s move to vote centers in 2014 prompts talk over contract

By CHRIS MORRIS
chris.morris@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — While his company came up short on its bid to supply Floyd County with new voting equipment, Jeremy Burton with ES&S — Election System & Software — wanted to at least voice concerns with the Floyd County Commissioners at a special meeting Wednesday night at the Pine View Government Center.

Burton and attorney John Kraft, who represents ES&S, told the commissioners and members of the election board that the county overspent when deciding to purchase new machines, along with software and other equipment, from RBM Consulting, for $396,000. Floyd County will move to vote centers in 2014.

Burton said his company’s bid was 21 percent less than others, including RBM. Also, ES&S has been supplying voting equipment and services to Floyd County since 1992.

Kraft told commissioners they could have stayed with the current voting machines, which would have saved tax dollars. He said ES&S could have continued to service the current machines through 2016, and there was no reason to end the relationship or move to new equipment.

However, Commissioner Chuck Freiberger said there were several meetings held on the subject before deciding on vote centers. He said the idea was first discussed five years ago.

“We’ve had meeting after meeting about this issue,” he told Kraft and Burton. “That was our decision [to move to vote centers]. We were told the old machines would be out-of-date and they wouldn’t make the machines anymore.”

Floyd County Clerk Linda Moeller said while there are initial costs upfront by getting new machines and software, moving to vote centers will eventually save money since less machines, and poll workers, will be needed.

Vote centers provide less polling locations than the precinct system, but any voter can go to any vote center, no matter the area of the county they live in. They aren’t restricted to voting at one specific precinct.

While cost was considered in picking a company to purchase the new machines from, there were also other factors, she said. ES&S, which has its federal certification, is waiting for its 2005 state certification from Ball State, which it is in line to receive in July. RBM already has its state certification.

Steve Bush, president of the Floyd County Commissioners, said a decision had to be made in December since the new machines had to be ordered and workers and the public trained prior to the 2014 election.

“We want to move toward vote centers because they will make it more efficient for the public to vote,” Bush said.

While Kraft and Burton didn’t ask the commissioners to reconsider the contract agreement they signed with RBM, they wanted the special meeting in order to express their concerns with the process.

“I think we could have provided substantial savings,” Burton said. “I think this will hinder the county in the future.”