Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Auditors Ask Lawmakers to Support New Election Equipment

The North Dakota House is expected to vote this week on funding new election equipment. It's not looking very positive and counties need to reach out to their Representative to encourage them to support HB 1122 and HB 1123!

Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt testifies to House Approps Committee
The House Appropriations sub-committee heard the bills on Monday. We had a strong show of support from Auditors who were there for the hearing and who sent in written testimony.

HB 1122 would allow for a state-wide electronic poll book system. Currently 8 out of the 53 counties use e-poll books. A state-wide e-poll book system could create efficiencies in elections. The greatest benefit for e-poll books is that they can track voters in real-time, preventing a voter from voting in the same election more than once at various polling locations. The cost is $3 million.

HB 1123 is for new election equipment. This includes the ballot scanners and AutoMark machines. The current state of election equipment is very poor. Equipment has reached it's end of life. Counties have had numerous instances of equipment failures. The difficulty with fixing these machines is that parts are no longer being manufactured. Therefore, counties are using spare machines or cannibalizing machines for their working parts. Election officials believe the election system could experience a dangerously high failure rate in 2018 and be unworkable in 2020. NDACo provided numerous examples of equipment failures in several counties.  The cost for new election equipment is $9 million.

Several committee members questioned why the counties don't pay for the equipment. During testimony it was highlighted that counties bear a significant cost every election. Their share of the cost of running an election, maintaining equipment, etc over ten years is equal to or greater than the state's cost if these two bills are approved.

As you know, the current state budget situation has created a bleak outlook for any bill with an appropriation. The House Appropriation sub-committee that heard two election bills Monday gave both bills unanimous Do Not Pass recommendations. Please consider contacting your House members and encourage them to support HB 1122 and HB 1123.

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