MONTICELLO – The White County Clerk’s office is upgrading its equipment to meet state voting mandates for the 2020 election cycle.
And registered voters will get a chance to use them for the upcoming municipal election.
The White County Board of Commissioners OK’d a $60,000 request Sept. 3 granting the county’s election board permission to move forward with the purchase of 48 new voting machines and 20 e-poll books.
The total cost for the equipment to next year’s budget will be about $252,700.
An e-poll book, also known as an electronic poll book, is typically either hardware, software or a combination of the two that allows election officials to review and/or maintain voter register information for an election, but does not actually count votes.
Functions of an e-pollbook include voter lookup, verification, identification, precinct assignment, ballot assignment, voter history update and other functions such as name changes, address changes and redirecting voters to the correct voting location.
According to Bob Callahan, president of the White County Elections Board, the current voting machines are about 15-20 years old.
“They’re cumbersome, heavy, difficult to set up and to tear down,” he said. “They do the job, but eventually they will have to be replaced to meet a 2029 requirement by the state to have a paper trail. E-poll books must have a paper trail by the 2020 elections.”
The new equipment arrived Sept. 5 from MicroVote, an Indianapolis-based election products and service company. The request vaulted to urgent status for the county when its two previous vendors – Robus and Government Business Systems (GBS) – were no longer viable options for the county.
Callahan said neither company would have equipment certified to Indiana’s standards. The White County Council, he said, questioned why two companies were providing election-related services and issued a mandate to find one company to suit the county’s needs.
Callahan said the election board looked at several vendors and found two who “could meet our needs.”
“One of those vendors can meet (both) our needs – and that is MicroVote,” he said. “They can supply us with e-poll books and voting machines. It’s a one-stop shop. They can service them.”
Callahan said MicroVote is used by more than half the counties in Indiana; White County was the only one using Robus and GBS.
“And now Robus is gone,” he said.
Because there was an emergency need and only one viable source, the commission was not required to place the matter out for a bid, according to County Attorney George Loy, citing state laws.
Since equipment must be delivered to a county election board not less than 60 days before an election, it made the situation even more pressing for the county.
White County Clerk Laura Cosgray told the commissioners by making the commitment, her office will be able to use Microvote’s equipment and services for the upcoming municipal election and the 2020 primary election free of charge.
“Next year, with the big 2020 election, at least we will have some of our poll workers and ourselves trained on those voting machines so we go into 2020 with some knowledge and experience,” she said. “That’s why we would like to use both this year.”
Callahan said all future servicing of the machines will be done locally, with no shipping and handling costs, and software updates are included.
A demo model of the new voting machine was on display Tuesday in the county council’s meeting room at the White County Building, as was an older voting machine and a new e-poll book.