Monday, December 7, 2015

NDACo Supports Updated Election Equipment in 2017

DeAnn Buckhouse, Cass Co., shows Sen. Jon Casper new e-poll books
County Auditors have concerns with aging election software and equipment. Ballot scanners purchased with federal funds from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) are over a dozen years old. Several counties have experienced problems with the scanners, Cass County Auditor, Mike Montplaisir shared his concerns with the aging equipment.

"Some scanners will not pass our rigorous testing requirements and others fail during Election Day and have to be replaced with a spare scanner," said Montplaisir.

An issue of this nature is of great concern to auditors who want to ensure voters that every vote is counted accurately. Electronic poll-books are also out-dated. North Dakota is not alone. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), most states are also in the same dilemma; deciding when and how to fund new election equipment. NCSL held a meeting recently that included county auditors, NDACo, Secretary of State staff and legislators. The discussion focused on the technology involved in administering elections. The group shared insights and ideas for the future need with emphasis on costs and funding. NCSL staff led the conversation, which helped the group identify what a new voting system should include.

Tour of Cass Co. warehouse where election equipment is stored
Cass County has already identified the need for newer equipment by funding new e-poll books and election software in 2015. This was a $320,000 investment by the county. Cass County auditor Mike Montplaisir told the group, "our county commission views elections as a core government service and they are willing to fund what we need. Our big concern is that this equipment is dated and we need ballot scanners that are digital. The equipment is available that addresses these concerns."

The Secretary of State's office says they will include a funding request for new election equipment in their 2017 budget. The preliminary cost estimate is $20 million.

County Auditors will have a major role to play in educating their local legislators on what equipment is used in their county and how it is in dire need of replacement.

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