Voters in Elkhart County will swap their paper ballots for electronic touch screens this spring.
Thursday, the county election board gave final approval to a vote center plan and selected an electronic poll book company to provide the equipment.
Over the past several months the election board accepted and narrowed down bids from potential vendors. The final three companies were RBM, Robis, and ES&S.
RBM offered the most expensive bid for a three-year equipment rental, $358,980 plus an additional $2,325 each year to rent encoder equipment.
Robis proposed a $242,425 initial purchase fee for the equipment, plus $22,010 for two subsequent years of leasing, which brought the grand total to $286,445.
ES&S, a Nebraska-based company ultimately won the bid with a three year lease for $267,438.
Earlier in the week Elkhart County Council and Elkhart County Board of Commissioners approved the vote center plan with a $200,000 budget for the first year. ES&S’s proposed cost of $267,438 would come way under budget when divided between three leased years.
What does the transition to vote centers mean?
Come primary elections this May, 25 vote center locations will be up and running with the touch screen system. The centers will be placed strategically throughout the county and any registered voter may cast their ballot at any of the locations.
The poll books will be connected to a central server the election board can monitor throughout Election Day. Not only will this assure no individual can vote more than once, it also allows specific split ballots and address-specific information to be pulled up at any vote center.
Poll book software will allow clerks to monitor how much traffic each vote center gets throughout the day and better inform staffing in future elections.
Five public hearings were held prior to the board’s vote on the plan. The biggest concerns expressed were ballot safety and public awareness of the transition. Hudson explained that in the days and weeks leading up to the elections households will receive postcards with all the vote center locations and reminding voters they can go to any location.